If you are generally disgusted by warm and fuzzy affairs, stop reading this review! Love Actually is so sickly sweet that it’s possible to overdose on the syrupy quality of it all. Diabetics take cover. Dewy-eyed romantics stop clutching your Harlequin novels, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Notting Hill scribe Richard Curtis is taking prisoners. Love Actually packs a lethal punch of numerous London love stories all rolled into one super (long!!!) film.
Hugh Grant leads an all-star ensemble cast of lovers falling in love and out of love a month before a chaotic Christmas. Grant’s prime minister has the hots for his assistant (Martine McCutcheon). Liam Neeson’s affecting widower has his hands full with a precocious stepson (Thomas Sangster) in the throes of first love. Colin Firth, always the cuckold, finds that the language of love isn’t English. Kiera Knightly is part of a topsy-turvy love triangle. Emma Thompson paired with Alan Rickman as clever hubby trying to steer clear of his smoldering secretary.
Got all that? Don’t worry, for the most part, it’s all easier to follow on-screen. Curtis carefully weaves back and forth between countless romances with surprising effortlessness as the story counts down to Christmas day. The heartbreaking love songs and Christmas tunes certainly help set the mood. Tracks from Kelly Clarkson, Dido, Maroon 5, Nora Jones and Joni Mitchell decimate anyone’s intolerance to this voluminous narrative.
Between Grant shaking it like a Polaroid picture to “Jump for My Love” and Sangster literally jumping for love, Curtis treats all the romances with equal care and attention. Some are just more interesting and meaningful than others. Who can help but groan when Colin (Kris Marshall), self professed “God of Sex”, flies from the UK to the USA to score with a willing American honey? Thompson, however, is heartrending as a woman whose marriage falls apart before our eyes. In her most pivotal scene, when Thompson breaks down as Joni croons in the background, you can’t help but fall apart right along with her.
Everyone is very funny and charming. Curtis is no newbie—he knows what he’s doing. He is an exacting puppet master plucking at the heartstrings of a receptive audience. He poses loveable British actors in loveable roles and worms his way into our hearts. One of his successes is Bill Nighy’s crass washed up rockstar who induces the warm fuzzies with his hilarious portrayal of former junkie trying to make a comeback singing a Christmas cover of “Love Is All Around.”
Be prepared for scattered cameos that let Claudia Schiffer, Mr. Bean Rowan Atkinson, Elisa Cuthbert, Shannon Elizabeth, Billy Bob Thorton and Denise Richards in on the love. Really, who isn’t in this film? Love Actually embraces all into the shameless kind of heartfelt mushiness you’d expect to find in a valentine, not the romantic comedies of late.
Some critics have panned this film for being saccharine but excuse me, what did they expect from a Christmas story literally bursting at the seams with love stories? Love Actually triumphs over all while juggling the ratio of broken hearts to budding romances skillfully and proving that “love is all around,” at least in this film.
Commentary on the DVD starring director Richard Curtis and actors Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy and Thomas Sangster is as uproarious as can be expected. The amusing deleted scenes could have been included as part of an extended version of Love Actually. And Richard Curtis is humble enough to pay homage to the sultry music in the film in “The Music of the Film.”