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Love Actually

January 27, 2021

Love Actually (2003)
Director: Richard Curtis
Actors: Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson

Love Actually' writer reveals character, plot details during movie screening

Synopsis: A series of interlinked stories in London about love over the Christmas period.

Review: Love Actually is the equivalent of a tin of Quality Street over Christmas. You know you shouldn’t – it’s shiny and tacky, and even its contents (the chocolate) are fairly synthetic – but, once a year, your guards are down and you can’t resist.

It is an absolute cheese-fest and, in many respects, it’s one big mess of a film. And yet – somehow, its whole adds up to greater than the sum of its parts. And though a lot of the stories in the portmanteau-style narrative are either woefully under-determined or their conceits are so laborious, it has a forceful unity that, to some extent, transcends those limitations.

There’s a natural hit-miss quality to the film’s scenario of charting the journey of love across various strands over Christmas, and I’m going to go against the grain of much of the film’s critical consensus by nominating some of the less-panned interludes as the ones that don’t work, or, at the very least, irritated me. The Martin Freeman-Joanna Page porn stand-ins who just so happen to have a very cute and genteel courtship while doing their lascivious posing is such a sketch-show concept and Richard Curtis seems far too enamoured of what is really a rather limited and obvious conceit. The Laura Linney subplot about her lovelorn character having to sacrifice a tryst with the office hunk to go and look after her mentally ill brother is a pretentious attempt to inject some sombreness and reality into the otherwise uplifting trajectory of the overall film, but it feels full of plot holes and is too thinly sketched. Why doesn’t Linney’s character just explain to her beau her domestic situation? And the famous Andrew Lincoln-Keira Knightley giant cards message scene is just plain creepy. Why would he do that when she’s just got married to his best friend, and what is the film’s position on this? It goes uncommented on, but Curtis seems to be presenting Lincoln’s character’s gesture as the apotheosis of cuteness and romance, when it just feels plain weird and manipulative to me.

Deconstructing the mini-narratives is somewhat academic though, especially as the film has this ethos of a pantomime, and there is some good fun to be had in the fringes of many of the stories. Hugh Grant is game in his preposterous role as British PM, and Bill Nighy and Colin Firth’s dry cynicism offers a nice counterpoint to the schmaltz elsewhere. And then there’s the best scene in the film, which ironically follows straight after the worst (the Lincoln ‘courtship’ one) where Emma Thompson’s wife opens up a Christmas present from her husband and realises the jewellery she saw him buying must, in fact, have been for another woman. It’s almost a shock to see such a well constructed and beautifully acted scene amid the rest of this film’s more mainstream machinations. (January 2021)

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 7, 2021 5:32 pm

    I think this was an entertaining, but overall unremarkable film. Sure, I will give the movie credit for its ambition and the cast is amazing. I have to say though that there are like eight subplots, and some of them feel really underdeveloped. I think it’s good fluff, but nothing more than that.

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