Love, Actually

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Yes, of course I know you knew I would give this movie a Full Price rating, just from the preview alone. I am not afraid to admit that my companion and I sat, long after the credits had stopped and lights had come up, not wanting to leave the theatre because it felt…too soon. We just wanted to bask in it for a while. We felt like we had had a delicious and sumptuous feast, with sweetness and tartness and even a bittersweet finish. The film is a surprise and a delight, and by all means please go see it. I could see it again and again.

Written and directed by Richard Curtis, much has been made of this writer with the bodacious chick flick pedigree of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones. However, let’s not forget the other things he has written, such as the inestimable Black Adder series and the little known but fantastic The Tall Guy. This is his directorial debut – it is probably wise for such a complex story structure to be directed by the writer. He handles the multiple plot lines with aplomb. Is it a chick flick? Oh hell yeah. But I think any sensible man who can appreciate a well-written story and some boobies as well will be happy to let his girlfriend have sex with him after they see it. Because she will want to. Hear that, fellas? (Ladies, you get Rodrigo Santoro and of course Hugh and Colin.)

Add the enormous cast of Brit wit darlings and consistently emotionally complex actors, the pedigree, what’s not to like? Oh believe you me, I was terrified that my expectations would be too high. The feel-good preview, with Hugh Grant dancing charmingly and Colin Firth smiling accessibly and Emma Thompson shrewdly seeing through husband Alan Rickman’s foolishness, Laura Linney vibrating with palpable joy…Maybe it looks glib and flip and Christmas fluffy, and you wonder, how can they tie these people together? But there are even more people to enjoy than just these! Little characters with smile-inducing plotlines and sweet, honest connections balance out the star-studded, heart-tugging bigger stories. Everyone in the film ties together in some way, either directly through being related or through friendship, or just being there to make that last second happen as it should, but it never feels forced or contrived, merely magical.

The idea is that love is everywhere, in different shapes and forms, perhaps, than we traditionally search for it in a love story type narrative, and the film is chockablock with the many flavors of love. Oh yeah, and be honest about it too. Love Actually is heartening and lovely and rich. And it’s really not all just a bunch of couples hooking up. We have the agonies of first love, the rapture of a first kiss, the stress of unexpected advances, the complexities of sibling relations, the palpable disappointment of one’s own mistakes, the terror of loss, and the anticipation and awkwardness of just asking her out. With so many characters and plotlines, still somehow Curtis makes you know and even care about every person on screen, which is a screenwriting feat to beat the band, let me tell you. After seeing a film like The Human Stain, an overly intense drama with very few people, and nary a feeling evoked, having so many people enter your consciousness so effortlessly and leave warm, sure footprints is amazing. Each story line could stand alone, but the interweaving adds so much to each story. Curtis has, with this fourth Working Title chick flick, possibly ruined it for all men by just getting what women really want in an onscreen man, but we’re not complaining. Go see it!

MPAA Rating R – sexuality, nudity and language
Release date 11/7/03
Time in minutes 129
Director Richard Curtis
Studio Universal Pictures

Coda: 20+ viewings later, I would rate this movie a legitimate classic.