Film Scouts Reviews

"An Awfully Big Adventure"

by Eleanor Ringel

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The title comes from "Peter Pan" ("To die will be an awfully big adventure," says Peter, stranded on a rock and facing high tide). That most American moviegoers won't get the reference (most of us weren't raised on annual Christmas revivals of Barrie's play) is a succinct indication - commercially speaking - of what's wrong with this scabrous British film directed by Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral"). In postwar Liverpool, a stagestruck teen (Georgina Cates) joins the run-down local repertory theater as an apprentice (translation: she gets to work her buns off backstage for free). Hugh Grant is as nasty as he wants to be as the company's snottily supercilious director and Alan Rickman matches him ego for ego as a rakish star hired to play Hook in the inevitable holiday "Pan." This is theater in all its tawdry, gaudy glory - a shabbily spangled Neverland in which no one ever grows up...much to their detriment. Newell and his cast serve it up with relish and precision, but the accents are so thick and the observations so "inside" that a mainstream audience may feel shut out. Still, this is a crafty and unflinching look at a craft bathed in its own self-infatuated romanticism. Noel Coward once advised: "Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington. If she saw this film, she wouldn't think of it.

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