After many years as a very successful TV comedy and film writer Richard Curtis has finally taken the reins and directed his first feature film. Luckily for him he has managed to get a cast together that most veteran directors would have struggled to.
The story of Love Actually is a series of nine intertwined events and subplots that at some point touch one or more of the other subplots albeit very briefly at times. These mini events range from the newly appointed Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) falling in love with a vulgar-mouthed assistant (Martine McCutcheon) to recently separated writer (Colin Firth) experiencing a frustrating time expressing his feelings for his non-English speaking Portuguese cleaning lady (Lucia Moniz).
Others include a young boy, Sam (Thomas Sangster) who is dealing with his first crush and having no-one to turn to except his stepfather David (Liam Neeson) who is still grieving the death of Sam’s mum. The touching tale of a young man’s quest to find sexual conquests in America and the poignant story of a husband (Alan Rickman) who makes a mistake that affects his life with his wife (Emma Thompson).
Not all the stories are about love realised, some are about love lost or love that nearly was. These include the story of lovelorn American (Laura Linney) silent longing for fellow worker (Rodrigo Santoro) much to the chagrin of the entire office. Also the relationship between a young artist, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) who watches as the woman he loves (Keira Knightly) marries his best friend (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
Even the relationship between aging bad boy of rock Billy Mack (a superb turn by Bill Nighy) and his long suffering manager during his comeback attempt with a cheesy Christmas single.
These are just a few members of the very impressive cast that Curtis has assembled. Also making appearances are Billy Bob Thornton, Denise Richards, Shannon Elizabeth, Rowan Atkinson (well it wouldn’t be a Richard Curtis affair without him), Martin Freeman, Heike Makatsch, Joanna Page and even Ant & Dec.
Performances are very good as most of the cast are briefly appropriate as not to spoil their performances. Hugh Grant plays the PM much better than expected but the real outstanding performances are Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson and the young Thomas Sangster.
In the laughs, which are freeflowing, there are a few serious moments but on the whole Love Actually is very much of a feel good movie. There are a few points of audience contrived manipulation – some good and some very poorly executed. The opening monologue about September 11th and the phone calls made by the passengers of the planes being filled with love is very contrived. The flip side is the speech made by Hugh Grant as the PM who refuses to play puppet to the President of the USA (Billy Bob Thornton) is as extremely crowd pleasing – well to anyone sick of Tony Bliar (and no that’s not a spelling mistake) and his lap dog policies towards the USA. Billy Bob Thornton manages to combine the lechery of Clinton with the moral complacency of Bush to good effect.
Bill Nighy definitely has the best lines and is one of the highlights of the film. His antics towards everyone he meets are hilarious and the cheesy remake of Wet Wet Wet’s ‘Love is all around’ but with the word ‘love’ replaced with ‘Christmas’ has been released as an actual single – which hopefully will reach number one in real life just to stick it to all the talent less karaoke bands that are around today.
Some critics have complained that the film tries to cram too much into its 135 minutes running time, but that’s a little unfair. It’s a romantic comedy set in the nice touristy London that American are so fond of, where films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill are set. The film does feel like bits of other Richard Curtis projects at times but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good film that achieves what it sets out to do and that’s all that it needs to do.
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