An Awfully Big Adventure | Movies | Palo Alto Online |

Movie Review

An Awfully Big Adventure

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Rated R for sexual situations and brief nudity. 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Publication date: Jul. 21, 1995
Review by Jeanne Aufmuth
Released: (1995)

When the name of director Mike Newell ("Enchanted April," "Four Weddings and a Funeral") is attached to a film, I have expectations for instant gratification in the form of warmth and vibrancy. "An Awfully Big Adventure" is sorely lacking in both. It's a seamy look at the underbelly of Liverpool's low-budget theater that manages to repulse rather than entertain.

Sixteen-year-old Stella (Georgina Cates) is a guileless, starry-eyed nymph whose great passion for the theater has thrust her headlong into the tempestuous backstage world of a Liverpool theater company in the years following World War II. Innocent and inquisitive, Stella is exposed to grown-up games of clandestine sex and sordid behind-the-scenes deceptions. But rather than fall prey to the unpleasantness, Stella manages to fall madly in love with the theater's charismatic director Meredith Potter (Hugh Grant), who is a manipulative, covert homosexual.

Good material with lots of potential, but it's surprisingly empty of anything or anyone to honestly care about. Performances are calculatingly first-rate, especially Grant's, proving once and for all that he can play thoroughly revolting as well as the one-note goody-goody. Though the surreal look is a perfect complement to post-war England and the pungent smell of peeling paint and face powder positively wafts off the screen, "An Awfully Big Adventure's" subtleties are too subtle and its mean spirit too pervasive to be anything but disagreeable.

The last 30 minutes throws out a desperate life preserver in the form of a "Crying Game" shocker, but this awfully big adventure is just an awfully big hodgepodge of emotion and conflict.