"Alive & Kicking," which takes place in an exclusively gay milieu, is at heart a serious love story about two men trying to connect in spite of formidable obstacles.
Tonio (Jason Flemyng) is HIV-positive, the principal dancer in Ballet Luna, an avant-garde company.
With the acknowledgment that "our best dancers are dead or dying," the company decides to fold after a final performance.
Into all of this comes Jack (Antony Sher). Short and a little stocky -- unlike the elegant Tonio -- he, too, lives in a gay environment, as a civil service therapist counseling people with AIDS. Not sick himself, he makes himself sick with drink, to better fit in an afflicted world.
AIDS as a metaphor for doomed love can be so blatant that it undermines artistic expression. And in spots "Alive & Kicking" succumbs, becoming maudlin.
Yet the desperate aspects of Jack and Tonio's relationship -- "Would you even look at me if I were healthy?" Jack wonders -- generally escape that trap, thanks to intense performances from Flemyng and Sher.
Some efforts at humor fall flat, but there's plenty of cheery camp that works. There's also a good bit of gay sex, not graphic-graphic, but unmistakable. And just when "Alive & Kicking" threatens to bog down in futility comes a remarkable ending, when AIDS physically, artistically and emotionally expands the meaning of a climactic dance.
'Alive & Kicking'
Starring Antony Sher and Jason Flemyng
Directed by Nancy Meckler
Released by First Look Pictures
Rated R (language, sex)
Sun score: ***
Pub Date: 11/07/97