Among Giants

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy's rep is riding high after his success with last year's "The Full Monty," but his new effort, "Among Giants," isn't in the same league. Like the earlier film, it's set in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield and centers on a group of amiable working-class characters, but it lacks the humor and passion that made "Monty" such a treat.

With:
Ray - Pete Postlethwaite
Gerry - Rachel Griffiths
Steve - James Thornton
Shovel - Lennie James
Bob - Andy Serkis
Weasel - Rob Jarvis

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy’s rep is riding high after his success with last year’s “The Full Monty,” but his new effort, “Among Giants,” isn’t in the same league. Like the earlier film, it’s set in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield and centers on a group of amiable working-class characters, but it lacks the humor and passion that made “Monty” such a treat. With less attractive characters, and a rather dull plot, expect this grungy romance to trickle into cinemas worldwide , with modest B.O. results.

This time the characters aren’t unemployed; led by Ray (Pete Postlethwaite), they’ve found work painting a series of electric pylons that straddle the picturesque Yorkshire countryside. The team includes Steve (James Thornton), Ray’s much younger buddy and roommate. Ray is separated from his wife and misses his kids; Steve has no ties.

Just as the work gets going, the group is joined by a young Aussie hitchhiker , Gerry (Rachel Griffiths), who implausibly seeks work on the pylons and who even less plausibly is taken on by Ray. She proves a willing worker, and Ray soon falls heavily for her. She moves in with him, setting off jealous vibes from Steve, who secretly fancies her.

It takes quite a while for this triangle to sort itself out along purely predictable lines. Meanwhile, the work is delayed by bad weather and wrangling among members of the group. Beaufoy’s scenario springs no surprises, and much-needed humor is muted.

First-time director Sam Miller, who hails from BBC-TV, handles the material with competence but little flair. A “Full Monty” sequence in which Ray and Gerry cavort au naturel in the depths of an abandoned nuclear power station is thrown in sans motivation.

Postlethwaite lends solid presence in the role of Ray, a tired guy who unexpectedly finds himself in love with a much younger woman. Griffiths dynamically portrays the interloper, though the character’s motivation is decidedly murky. She has the pic’s best scene, in which she suddenly decides to seduce Steve — a bold sequence that stands out amid the generally routine events. Other members of the team make minimal impressions, unlike “Monty’s” colorful crew; this is no reflection on the actors involved — it’s just that they’re not given anything very interesting to do.

Technical credits are solid.

Among Giants

British

Production: A Capitol Films presentation of a Kudos production, with the participation of British Screen, Arts Council of England, BBC Films and the Yorkshire Media Production Agency. (International sales: Capitol Films, London.) Produced by Stephen Garrett. Executive producer, Jana Edelbaum. Co-executive producers, David M. Thompson, Jane Barclay, Sharon Harel. Directed by Sam Miller. Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy.

Crew: Camera (Rank color), Witold Stok; editors, Ellen Pierce Lewis, Paul Green; music, Tim Atack; production designer, Luana Hanson; costume designer, Stephanie Collie; sound (Dolby Digital), Rosie Straker; casting, Di Carling; associate producer, Lou Spain. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 15, 1998. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: Ray - Pete Postlethwaite
Gerry - Rachel Griffiths
Steve - James Thornton
Shovel - Lennie James
Bob - Andy Serkis
Weasel - Rob Jarvis

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