Found-Again Friday: An Awfully Big Adventure


Why Found-Again? This was ranked on my old site as the most disappointing movie I’d ever seen—on a list inspired by watching Altered States the first time, and which would likely have either States or Starship Troopers in the top slot were I ranking the same five now. At the time (2005), I said of An Awfully Big Adventure: “this ostensible comedy…treats among other themes war, incest, homosexuality, thwarted love, suicide*, and the despair of growing old as an artist, [and] flops utterly. One funny bit. One. And yet the cover of the video was dotted with blurbs, apparently by people whose idea of “rollicking comedy” is anything more cheerful than an autopsy. I ask you.”

Clearly I didn’t have a good time last time, but it’s just as clear that some of the fault lies with false advertising. So is An Awfully Big Adventure better when you know what sort of adventure you’re in for?

The Premise: In post-War England, an (extremely) awkward and romantic young woman named Stella gets a job with a theatre troupe filled with exactly the struggling, short-tempered, raunchy eccentrics you’d expect from a movie about a British theatre troupe. She falls immediately in love with director/complete bastard Meredith Potter (Hugh Grant), but  when the company’s breakout star P.L. O’Hara returns (Alan Rickman), everything changes.

This movie may hold some kind of record for number of actors who make appearances elsewhere in my DVD collection: Edward Petherbridge (Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries), Alan Cox (Young Sherlock Holmes), Hugh Grant (Bridget Jones’s Diary), Alan Rickman (Truly, Madly, Deeply)—even the actor who plays the heroine’s uncle had a tiny, tiny part in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Like its fellow countrymovie Love, Actually, I really wanted to like this based on its cast.

The Verdict: …But I still mostly don’t. (Also like Love, Actually, as a matter of fact.)

An Awfully Big Adventure is indeed much better when billed as a “bittersweet coming-of-age story” (thank you, Netflix envelope!) than a comedy, and a chance to look at Alan Rickman in a leather jacket  Lord Peter MFing Wimsey some of my favorites in action is probably never a waste. This time around, perversely, the movie’s heroine was my sticking point. Georgina Cates as Stella is amazing—so amazing that her growing pains and unrequited loves, and the many occasions when people take advantage of her, are sometimes excruciating to watch. I won’t watch it again, but I no longer hold a grudge.

*Special breaking update, and by “breaking,” I mean “Read it on Wikipedia at 3 this morning”: It’s possible that the suicide I mention in the 2005 review was not, in fact, intended to be interpreted as one. You could have fooled me, but of course many things have.

Might go well with: Not popcorn, and I’d rather not say why.


Next time: Forward (Po-)Ho.

J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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