I rented Love Actually last week and watched it with my girlfriend. The film, released at the theaters last year, was not even my fourth choice. But when one is in a relationship, one finds themselves having to make compromises. In this case, the compromise turned out to be a pleasant surprise - though my girlfriend did fall asleep halfway through.
Anyway, as I watched the fairly complex plot threads slowly weave their way towards a predictably syrupy conclusion, I found myself contemplating this film a bit more than expected. I'll try to cover the bases without boring readers to death.
First and foremost, Love Actually boasts an extraordinary cast of actors, many of whom are from Britain, the location of this valentine of a movie. Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney and Colin Firth, among others, lend an air of respectability to the mainly light proceedings. This ensemble piece examines eight varieties of relationships, all of them involving a form of love.
You have love between a father and son, love between a Prime Minister and house employee, love between a long-time married couple, love between co-workers, love between two long-time friends, love between porno stand-ins and love between a writer and housekeeper. I'm sure I missed a relationship somewhere in this very busy film. If so, forgive me.
Richard Curtis wrote and directed this romance/drama/comedy, and it was his first time behind the lens. His previous work included the charming screenplays to Four Weddings and a Funeral (a favorite of mine), Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary. After such notable success with the pen, I suppose it was about time for him to sit in the director's chair. He does an adequate job with a fairly daunting screenplay. Not only must this story weave in and out of the lives of 10-20 individuals in modern-day London, but it must walk a fine line between comedy and drama, giving each notable actor enough screen time to flex their professional muscle.
Curtis wears his heart on his sleeve in Love Actually, and that is not always a good thing. The film is radically uneven, and does not necessarily come together with satisfying panache. He bats about .500, but when he does make a hit, it is indeed a home run.
The misfires are many, as the budding love between the already-mentioned porn stand-ins strikes the harmonious note of a wooden nickel. This talkative pair, in various forms of undress, pretend to perform lustful sex acts while cameramen set the lighting meters prior to the actual actors doing their "business." The odd couple make a date and literally shiver during their first kiss. The symbolism is too obvious - yes Richard, we know lust and love are two entirely different things. The film comes to a standstill during these vignettes.