Love Actually Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/08/2003
Every year we are flooded with Christmas movies, but most of them would be considered “family faire.” Occasionally, we get an R-rated Christmas movie, like Die Hard, Silent Night Deadly Night, or The Ref. While you wouldn’t want to take your kids to it, they are still fun to watch. I’m going to add Love Actually to that fun R-rated Christmas movie list.
This movie begins six weeks before Christmas in Britain, and has several separate storylines in it that intertwine eventually. Story #1: Over-the-hill rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is recording a Christmas version of the Troggs’ 1968 hit “Love is All Around.” His version replaces the word “love” with the word “Christmas,” and it makes him nauseous, an emotion he doesn’t keep secret from anyone, which only gives headaches to his longtime manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher.) He wants to have a bigger hit with it than the latest hot boy band on the circuit, so he promises to perform the song naked on Christmas Eve if the public will make it a hit. Story #2: The new Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) has takes office and finds himself attracted to his personal staff secretary, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), a woman that others think is fat for some reason (I know fat, and she isn’t that.) He thinks his feelings for her will interfere with his job, and when he catches her in the arms of the visiting married President of the U.S. (Billy Bob Thornton), he has her re-assigned. He just can’t get her out of his mind though. Story #3: The Prime Minister’s sister, Karen (Emma Thompson), is having marital problems with her husband, Harry (Alan Rickman), who is flirting with a young and attractive employee of his named Mia (Heike Makatsch.) He doesn’t know whether or not to act upon Mia’s advances, and at one point considers buying a necklace for her from the mall jewelry store manned by Rufus (Rowan Atkinson.) Story #4: Another employee of Harry named Sarah (Laura Linney) has had a longtime crush on coworker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), but never acts on it, because of nerves, and because she is emotionally chained to her mentally ill brother Michael (Michael Fitzgerald.) Story #5: Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is in love with Juliet (Keira Knightley), the new bride of his best friend, Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor.) He hides his love with rudeness, which concerns Juliet. Story #6: Movie body double stand-ins John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) end up falling for each other while filming a graphic simulated sex scene. Despite the fact that they have seen each other naked and have practically had sex already, they are shy around each other. Story #7: Daniel (Liam Neeson) has recently lost his wife, and is now the sole parent of his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster.) He thinks the boy is sad that his mom is gone, but he is actually upset that he has failed to gain the attention of Joanna Anderson (Olivia Olson), an American who is the most popular girl in school. Daniel encourages Sam to take up the drums for the upcoming school Christmas pageant, much to his regret. Story #8: Writer Jamie (Colin Firth) moves out of his house after discovering his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) cheating on him with his brother (Dan Fredenburgh.) He finds himself falling for his new Portuguese housekeeper, Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), even though neither of them can understand what the other is saying. Story #9: After being frustrated with stuck-up British women, Colin Frissell (Kris Marshall) has decided to go to America where he hopes his British accent will help him score with many American women. He ends up in Milwaukee, and immediately picks up Stacey (Ivana Milicevic), Jeannie (January Jones), and Carol-Anne (Elisha Cuthbert), who invite him home with them. The movie ties each story together at the end with a big airport scene and the common theme of love.
One thing I’ve noticed about British filmmakers compared to American ones is that they really don’t concern themselves with toning down the content to get a PG-13 rating. Richard Curtis, who wrote the screenplays for the great R-rated British comedies Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bridget Jones’s Diary, directed it. This movie is definitely not a family film, but it’s a cute film that you could take a date to see. The funny thing is that the most graphic scenes are actually the cutest. Story #6 has rampant nudity, yet it is so funny to see how shy these two are around each other. If you like your cuteness without nudity, the best story is a toss-up between story #1 and story #7. Nighy is hilarious in every scene he appears, including a funny send-up of the Robert Palmer zombie model videos. Sangster is adorable as the love-struck 10-year-old, and I thought the chemistry between him and Neeson was great. I thought it was odd the way he talked to his stepson without censoring his language, but if Billy Elliot is any indication, Brits don’t place as much of a stigma on naughty language as Americans do. Their story could have been a whole other movie. Finally, story number #9 was pure escapism. The stuff that happened to that guy usually only happens in pornos, but in this movie, it’s just plain funny.
The story I liked the least was #4. This woman constantly allowed herself to be a victim, and because she does that, she doesn’t get to experience the same love as everyone else in the film.
Love Actually will give you that warm, Christmasy feeling without the need for it to be a family film. Why haven’t I mentioned my opinion of the most advertised story, the Hugh Grant-led story #2? It’s because, while entertaining, it isn’t the best parts of the movie. The other lesser profile stories all tower over it. I know we don’t get too many R-rated Christmas movies in general, but I think there should be at least one per year for the adults. This year we are getting two, because the R-rated Billy Bob Thornton-led Bad Santa, which happens to be John Ritter’s last film, comes out November 26. We don’t always have to deck the halls with the kids, and this film will put you in the right adult holiday spirit.
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