Director: Richard Curtist
Cast: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Laura Linney
Viewed in theaters: 11/08/03
For my holiday film this year, I decided to go with Love, Actually, a warm and fuzzy movie about love and being with the people you care about during the Christmas season that revolves around about eight or nine different vignettes involving just about every major British actor. (Even Kate Winslet has a small "cameo"!) This movie makes me want to visit London during the holidays - it looks beautiful!
If the premise sounds too saccharine for you, the movie is not all candy canes and sugarplums. Neeson's story deals with the death of his wife and raising his stepson. Firth discovers his girlfriend is cheating on him with his brother. Rickman and Thompson (Snape and Trelawney!) play a married couple who is in danger of breaking up. Knightley, recently married, discovers her new husband's best friend is in love with her. Linney plays a woman in love with her co-worker, but because she has a brother with a mental illness, he takes up all her time and she has to choose between him or having a relationship.
Because there are so many different stories interwoven into the movie, it's always fun to pick out a favorite or two. Here are my three favorites: (warning: spoilers!)
1. I adore Colin Firth so that may have something to do with his storyline being my favorite, but it is a very sweet story. After his character Jamie finds out his girlfriend and brother are having an affair, he goes away to the country to work on a novel in a house by the lake. There he meets his housekeeper, a young woman from Portugal who doesn't know any English. They discover they've grown quite close and she learns English and he learns Portuguese and ends up flying to Portugal to propose to her at the restaurant she works at - probably one of my favorite movie proposals ever.
2. After his wife dies, Neeson's character is worried about his ten-year-old stepson, Sam (and I have no idea where his biological father is in the picture). It turns out little Sam is so glum because he's in love with "the coolest girl" in his class and is sure she doesn't even know his name. They find out that little Joanna is singing in the school's Christmas program and decide that he should learn to play the drums and be in the band because that will get her attention. Joanna sings Mariah Carey's classic All I Want For Christmas Is You (which is a testament to how popular that song is - it was made nine years before this movie came out) and when she sings the last line, she points to Sam on "you". He's grinning madly, but when she turns to the audience and points to different members singing "and you and you and you", he quickly frowns and irritably bangs the drums. He does discover that she does know his name after chasing after her at the airport when she has to fly back home to New York.
3. Probably the funniest story involved Bill Nighy as an aging rock star who's covering Love is All Around (great song!) but replaces "love" with "Christmas" and changes the line "so if you really love me, come on and let it show" to "so if you really love Christmas, come on and let it snow". The music video involves girls in tight-fitting Santa suits licking their lips ala a Robert Palmer video. He knows the song is "shite" and to get his record to #1, promises to perform it nude on live TV if it does. One of my favorite scenes is when he goes on a music show to promote his new album and tells kids not to buy drugs - they should become rock stars and they'll get them for free.
There were a couple vignettes that I thought could have been dropped and the extra time could have been used to focus on the remaining stories that maybe needed some extra scenes to make them more complete. I first would have gotten rid of the stand-in actors performing the sex scenes for a movie. They were just a side story and didn't connect to any of the other stories. And, as much as it pains me to say this, because I did think it was a funny sidestory, I would have gotten rid of the character of Colin and his quest to go to the U.S. because he's more likely to score with American girls because they'll love his "cute British accent". While it's funny, that story could have easily been dropped. I would love to watch it with a Wisconsin audience if only to hear their reaction when he tells his friend he's going to a "magical place called Wisconsin!"
The most ridiculous storyline is probably Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister. Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister? Yeah, right. I did love the scene where he starts singing carols for those little girls and his chauffeur starts singing with him and he's got this really deep voice and sounds like Pavoratti.
I really adore this movie - I've seen it several times and own it on DVD. Even though my experience seeing at at the theaters wasn't so great (I had to sit in the front row because the theater was packed and ended up sitting next to the most annoying moviegoer in the world. She! Would! Gasp! At! Every! Single! Thing!) the enjoyment of the film overshadowed all of that. So go make yourself a cup of hot cocoa, light a fire, curl up with someone you love, and pop this in your DVD player!