my opinion, screenwriter Richard Curtis is responsible for two of the
greatest romantic comedies ever (Four Weddings and a Funeral and
Notting Hill) as well as co-writing another pretty damned good one (Bridget
Jones's Diary.) Love Actually marks the first time that
Curtis has directed his own film. While it is not as good as any of
those previous films, there is still much in the movie to love.
of Curtis' recurring motifs in his films has always been that the lead
characters are surrounded by a tight-knit group of eccentric friends.
In Love Actually, the film is made up of all friends and no leads.
The film explores a bunch of different people who find love in London during
the Christmas season. Much like the work of Robert Altman (or
even more like Ron Howard's Parenthood), the film is an complicated
puzzle of about ten seemingly unconnected stories that have only one common
denominator -- in this case, love.
always romantic love, of course. While many of the stories do deal
with that, others deal with the love between a parent and a child, the love
of siblings, the love between old friends and co-workers, the love between
countries and cultures. You have older lovers straying and new couples
trying to work past second thoughts. You have unrequited love and true
love rewarded. Curtis' film covers most of the spectrum -- although
there are mostly all happy endings, which seems rather selective in reality,
but somehow works in the context of this film.
Grant plays the Prime Minister of England who has a crush on his assistant.
Liam Neeson plays a widower who is trying to survive his own grief and his
step-son's first big crush. Colin Firth is an author who finds his fiancée
having an affair with his brother and goes to France to be alone, only to
fall in love with his Portuguese maid, who doesn't speak the same language
as him. Laura Linney is an office worker who has fallen for a
colleague, but can't bring herself to open up to him because she feels
responsible for caring for her mentally disturbed brother. Emma
Thompson is a long-married housewife who realizes her husband (Alan Rickman)
is considering having an affair with his secretary. Keira Knightley
plays a newlywed that has just found out that her husband's best man has
been in love with her, and is intrigued by the idea. Bill Nighy plays
an aging rock star who releases a sappy Christmas single looking to
resurrect his career, only to figure out that he already had what he needed
stories sometimes seem a little disjointed, particularly early on in the film when we
are still trying to figure out how (or if) all these characters are related.
In the end, all are intertwined in surprising ways, though not necessarily
in huge ways. Instead, the film becomes the story of a community, as
well as the individuals.
large group of tales tends to cause some anecdotes to be under explored.
One of the funniest early sections explores the amusingly chaste courtship between two nude figure models. However the characters disappear for
long periods of the movie and when they finally do reappear, it with a
whimper rather than a bang. Also undercooked is the story of a goofy
waiter who decides he is going to move to the United States to find
beautiful women, only to have his dreams come startlingly true.
Curtis' directing is mostly very assured, although he might have used
someone else there to help curb some of his more sentimental impulses.
The acting, as would be expected with a cast of this magnitude, is pretty
Love Actually is in the end a valentine to the human race. Even
the most cynical audiences (myself included in that list) can't help but
wish that true love conquered all -- for real -- as tidily as it does in
Richard Curtis' world. Some of the stories are a little slight, some
are a little sappy, some are ended a little ambiguously, but all in all
there is something for everyone here. You'd have to be a real Grinch to
not fall under Love Actually's spell.
Jay S. Jacobs