[Screen It]


(1999) (Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Griffiths) (R)

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Tense Scenes
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Drama: A small team of men and one woman race against a deadline to paint several hundred massive electrical towers before the power's turned back on or the woman drives a romantic wedge between them.
Ray (PETE POSTLETHWAITE) is a lonely, middle-aged foreman who enjoys climbing cliffs and other high places during his off-hours with his younger friend Steve (JAMES THORNTON). When they're given an under-the-table job to paint hundreds of high voltage electrical towers along the Yorkshire moors, they readily accept the daunting task.

While it means good pay, they realize it will also entail long hours, hard work, and plenty of grief from their crew that includes Shovel (LENNIE JAMES), Bob (ANDY SERKIS), Weasal (ROB JARVIS), Frank (ALAN WILLIAMS) and Derek (STEVE HUISON).

All of those men are surprised when Ray hires Gerry (RACHEL GRIFFITHS), a young and pretty backpacker who's on her way back to Australia. A free spirit with no fear of heights, Gerry immediately joins the crew and then draws the romantic interest of both Ray and Steve.

As both men compete for Gerry's affection -- an act that will soon drive a romantic wedge between the two -- the crew races against time to complete their job before deadly voltage in the towers comes back on-line.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's extremely unlikely.
For language and sexuality/nudity.
  • PETE POSTLETHWAITE plays a lonely, middle-aged foreman who enjoys high places, is separated from his wife (and their kids) and enters into a serious relationship with Gerry. He also drinks and smokes some.
  • JAMES THORNTON plays his best friend and coworker who becomes jealous of that relationship, and drinks, smokes and cusses.
  • RACHEL GRIFFITHS plays a free-spirited woman who's backpacking across England when she joins the crew. She drinks and smokes some and has sex with two different men.


    OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
    If you've ever looked up at the giant towers that stretch across the land and reach for the Heavens or the incredibly long bridges that span great rivers or gorges, you may have pondered how they were ever built. Forgoing the engineering and technical feet of constructing such massive structures, you might not have thought about an obvious predicament -- how does one go about painting them?

    Exposed to the elements each and every day, they certainly need the occasional touch up and will inevitably require a complete repainting at least several times in their existence. Since giant-sized spray cans don't exist, it's up to individual workers to climb up them, strap themselves in, and start the unenviable task of painting every square inch of them.

    That's the premise of "Among Giants," a film that's described in the press kit as "a moving and whimsical romance that takes place one hundred feet in the air as a group of high-wire electrical tower painters cope with a fearless woman in their midst."

    While the latter part of that's correct, the film barely registers as whimsical and certainly isn't moving, or for that matter, very interesting despite the unique setting. In fact, had it not been for the success of screenwriter Simon Beaufoy's breakout hit, "The Full Monty," it's doubtful this film -- which was written before that one -- would ever have hit the big screen.

    Although the film gets some points for being what's presumably the first to depict a romantic drama on electrical towers, that alone can't propel the weak plot through the picture's duration. In fact, the whole thrust of the premise -- that the team is racing against time to paint all of the towers before the power is turned back on -- is never fully utilized or entirely believable.

    After the basic premise has been introduced, for the most part the film turns its back on it. While we understand that other elements had to be introduced to keep the main plot line from quickly becoming boring, it seems odd that the team finds themselves with the time -- or for that matter the energy -- to do some other cliff climbing, country music line dancing, or frolicking buck naked under the cascading waters of a nuclear power plant's cooling towers. And that's while they're supposed to be racing against the clock and the throwing of a switch that will fry them like insects in a bug zapper if they don't complete the job in time.

    It's that part that's never quite believable. Since the crew is working from one under-the-table paycheck to the next, why would they be concerned about meeting the deadline and/or worried about the power coming back on? Being the somewhat motley crew that they are, they'd simply do what could be done up to the day of returning power and then simply hit the road looking for the next gig. And it's never explained why the power is off for so long in the first place. What are the people for whom those lines bring electricity doing in the meantime? Watching the paint dry on the towers?

    Yet the film near completely drops the whole notion of racing against time or the dangers of the power returning -- at least until a scene near the end that's supposed to be dramatically suspenseful but comes off as anything but since we've long since lost any and all interest in the proceedings.

    Thus, and since that aspect of the film isn't that enticing or exciting, the filmmakers decide to drop a romantic subplot into the story. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much to take up the slack. In fact, it, and most of the rest of what occurs during the film, nearly feels as if the performers, tired of waiting for anything resembling a script to be handed to them, simply took it upon themselves to do anything to alleviate their boredom.

    Thus the country line dancing, the nude frolicking under the falling waters of the cooling tower (that may indeed produce giants -- albeit mutant ones -- if a sequel, God forbid, is ever made), Gerry's sudden attempt late in the film to climb a cliff, and the May/September romance between Griffiths and Postlethwaite's characters.

    That latter element just sort of pops up out of nowhere with no clear reason why she'd pick this older and severely down on his luck older man. While the chemistry between them is marginally believable, their whole love affair seems more of a necessary plot contrivance than a natural occurrence.

    Past Oscar nominees Pete Postlethwaite ("In the Name of the Father," "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet") and Rachel Griffiths ("Hilary and Jackie," "Muriel's Wedding") do their best with what they've been given to work with and deliver decent performances, but unfortunately can't overcome their underdeveloped and haphazardly explored/defined characters.

    They fare far better than James Thornton, however, who as the "third wheel" character is stuck spinning with nowhere to go. The rest of the performers are even less fortunate as they inherit such interchangeable roles that you'll probably be hard pressed to correctly name each of them, let alone identify any sort of individual characteristics they might possess.

    Instead, first-time director Sam Miller seems more interested in using them as comic fodder. While having them sing songs such as "Stand By Me" in unison may have seemed like a surefire way to elicit some charm, little of it makes it to the screen. In fact the most notable thing about the picture is the sweeping, flyby cinematography -- courtesy of Witold Stok -- of the towers, the crews on them, and other such high places.

    While the film isn't completely horrible, and its cinematography and attempted whimsical score -- often oddly playing banjo tunes (in, of all places, England) -- make it somewhat easier to sit through, the sheer fact that nothing substantial happens and that it's hard to understand much of what's being said (due to the often thick or unintelligible accents) doesn't help matters.

    In the end, the plot never goes anywhere, we don't really care about the characters, and as a result, this grounded film -- which will fall from the box office faster than a bucket of paint from the top of one of those giant towers -- never reaches the lofty heights it tries to reach, and has as much electricity as the dead towers that loom over everything else in the production. We give "Among Giants" a 2.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated film. Profanity is extreme with at least 25 "f" words and other words and phrases. Several sexual encounters take place (one seen with movement and sound, but no nudity, and several others that are implied or heavily suggested).

    One scene involves at least a minute's worth of both male and female full frontal and rear nudity as two characters nakedly cavort under some falling water from a cooling tower. Other scenes briefly show female nudity and male rear nudity. Some sexually related comments also occur during the film.

    Beyond some beer and other liquor drinking, cigarette smoking, and that fact that people with a fear of heights won't like watching the film, the rest of its categories are relatively void of any major objectionable content. Although it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for them or anyone else in your home, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • A crew member drinks beer on the site.
  • Gerry drinks from a wine bottle, but someone later mentions that it's water (or tastes like water).
  • Ray and others have beer in a pub.
  • Ray has a beer and throws one to Gerry who opens it.
  • Steve has a beer with dinner, and we then see him and Ray finishing drinks in a bar.
  • A man arrives with a tanker truck full of "single malt." A bucket is then lowered from it and one of the men drinks from the bucket.
  • Although they're probably cigarettes, there's a scene where the workers pass around something they're smoking that could be marijuana (due to it being passed around, but that can't be confirmed).
  • Part of the crew drinks while sitting around a campfire.
  • Ray, Steve and Gerry come out of a pub appearing as if they're somewhat drunk.
  • Some crew members drink beer.
  • Crew members drink beer at a country western bar and Steve brings over shots for himself and others.
  • Sitting up in the tower, Steve and Gerry drink liquor straight from the bottle.
  • Some crew members drink on the site.
  • We see Steve's urine stream as he relieves himself toward someone below him on the tower.
  • We see Bob squatting by the road as he goes to the bathroom.
  • As a joke, Steve relieves himself toward someone below him on the tower.
  • Steve has a flippant attitude toward a woman with whom he evidently slept with and won't help her get back to the city.
  • Bob borrows money from Ray because he owes money to a loan shark.
  • Ray has some of both for asking Gerry to marry him before he's technically divorced from his wife (although they are separated) and his wife is mean to Gerry.
  • Steve has some of both for being jealous of Ray's relationship with Gerry.
  • Gerry casually has sex with Steve.
  • The setting of many of the film's scenes -- either high up on the electrical towers or featuring characters climbing up sheer cliffs -- may be unsettling or tense to some viewers.
  • One such scene has Steve climbing up a cliff and barely making it to the top and another has Gerry doing the same by herself but without ropes. She eventually falls and lands on her back, injuring herself.
  • In another scene, Gerry jumps from the tower after drinking liquor and allows her safety rope to break her fall.
  • After the electricity suddenly comes back on, Ray (who's on the ground), must guide one of his workers down from the now hot tower.
  • None.
  • Phrases: (Due to the thick and often unintelligible accents, the following should be considered a minimum): "For f*ck's sake," "Sh*thole," British slang terms "Bollocks," "Bloody," "Bugger" and "Shag" (sexual), "Bastard," "Friggin'," "Freakin'," "Moron," "What the bloody hell," "Piss off" and "Pisser."
  • Some kids may want to imitate the climbing of towers or sheer cliffs, or even a scene where both Gerry and Steve make their way around a pub's walls without touching the floor.
  • As a joke, Steve relieves himself toward someone below him on the tower.
  • None.
  • A tiny bit of suspenseful music plays in several scenes.
  • None.
  • Due to the thick and often unintelligible accents, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • At least 25 "f" words, 12 "s" words, 2 slang terms for breasts ("t*ts"), 1 slang term for male genitals ("d*ck"), the following British slang terms: "Shag" (4), "Bollocks" (11) and "Bugger" (2), 4 hells, 2 asses and 1 use of "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • Steve tells Ray that he could be depressed from not enough "shagging" (sex).
  • Steve tells Gerry that she wouldn't know sex if it were "wiggling in your face."
  • Steve jokingly states that he thinks Gerry is a lesbian.
  • A female bartender comes out of Steve's van the next morning with a hickey on her neck, implying that she and Steve spent the night together.
  • We see Gerry in the shower behind a partly transparent shower curtain and thus get obscured views of nudity.
  • Ray and Gerry kiss and take off their shirts while standing (we see her in her bra) after he says, "Somewhere under here (her clothes) there's a woman."
  • We then see them in bed together the next morning under the sheets where she seems to have her hand at his crotch. He asks her what she's doing and she states "It's moving" and he replies that it's supposed to do that. She then gets up to get dressed and we see her bare butt, breasts and very brief full frontal nudity.
  • As Bob squats by the road going to the bathroom, a truck approaches and then chases him down the road while his pants are still down. As a result we see parts of his bare butt.
  • Rachel mentions having had a "shag."
  • Steve mentions that where he's going, there's nothing but "sun, sea and sex."
  • As Ray and Gerry cavort under the falling waters of nuclear power plant's cooling tower, we see at least a minute (and various angles) of both male and female full frontal and rear nudity. We also see the two of them hugging one another while standing under the water nude.
  • Steve mentions hearing "shagging" through the walls of Ray's place.
  • A woman with Ray's wife shows some cleavage.
  • Showing the others his retrofitted van, Steve tells them to check out his "shagging mirror" on the van's ceiling.
  • Staying at Steve's place, Gerry climbs under the sheets with him where he's sleeping on the floor. She then climbs on top of him and has sex with movement and sounds/heavy breathing but no nudity. He then immediately gets up and walks away and we see the top half of his bare butt.
  • Steve and Ray smoke a few times, Gerry smokes once, and various other crew members smoke in many other scenes.
  • Ray is separated from his wife (and consequently his kids that we only see in one scene where they're sleeping). Later, we see that his wife is still upset with him, particularly when she sees that he plans to marry Gerry (while still technically married to her).
  • How people actually go about painting massive structure like electrical towers and bridges, etc...
  • The fact that Ray asked Gerry to marry him despite him still technically being married to someone else.
  • One of the crew members chases Steve, tackles him and paints his face (after Steve urinated on him from high on the tower).
  • Steve, upset at Ray, arrives at the site and starts hitting him (but mainly in frustration).

  • Reviewed April 6, 1999 / Posted April 9, 1999

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