Thank you Universal for the perfect holiday gift, LOVE ACTUALLY -- one
hilarious poem of a picture to the joy of love!
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, the writing genius responsible for
NOTTING HILL, the movie features a cast of thousands -- all giving their very
best in the service of love. From big names (Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma
Thompson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Nighy and Billy Bob
Thornton) to relative unknowns (Martine McCutcheon, Andrew Lincoln, Heike
Makatsch, Lucia Moniz, Rodrigo Santoro and Thomas Sangster), all of the actors
are absolutely brilliant, witty and adorable.
The film, which gets funnier and more touching as it goes on, contains more
large laughs than could be stuffed into any Christmas box. The holiday story
starts in the five weeks before Christmas and works its way up to the big day,
so opening the movie in November actually makes sense.
Structured as a slightly intertwined montage of love stories, the movie doesn't
have a star per se, but Hugh Grant, as England's nervous new Prime Minister,
provides the key glue to hold some of the stories together. He's a bachelor
who, when no one is looking, can cut a mean rug. He may be no John Travolta
when it comes to dancing, but he's ready to take on the married, Clintonesque
American President (Thornton) who dares to make moves on Natalie (McCutcheon),
one of the Prime Minister's aides. The event takes place in London where the
President has come for a meeting with the new government.
Everyone in the movie is either in love or trying hard to obtain that state of
bliss. The film's title comes from the phrase, "Love actually is all around."
It reinforces this message with video clips of average people of all ages
experiencing the exhilaration of love. The movie also features some great love
songs, like "All You Need Is Love." And it plays off of this, with one of its
funniest characters, Billy Mack (Nighy), "the bad granddad of rock 'n roll,"
trying to hawk his latest tune, which awkwardly sticks the word "Christmas"
into a love song. A hysterically acerbic character, Billy says on an MTV-like
program, "Don't buy drugs." So far so good. But then he adds. "Become a pop
star, and they'll give you them for free."
In another story, Sarah (Linney) has had an office crush for two years on Carl
(Santoro), except that she has a mentally ill brother who demands all of her
time. Her boss, Harry (Rickman) has problems too. He has a lovely wife, Karen
(Thompson), and a horny secretary, Mia (Makatsch), who is doing everything but
pin him on his desk. Jamie (Firth) is a lonely writer who falls in love while
in France with his Portuguese housekeeper, Aurelia (Moniz), who speaks as much
English as he does Portuguese, which is none. And finally there's Sam
(Sangster), a grade school kid whose love burns with an intensity as big as any
adult. "That's the end of life as I know it," he tells his step-father, Daniel
(Neeson), when the love of Sam's young life is about to move to America before
he has ever developed the courage to speak to her.
There is so much I have not been able to get to, like Rowan Atkinson's precious
bit as the world's most fastidious jewelry sales clerk. And there's my
personal favorite, the movie stand-ins. One of recurring episodes involves a
crew setting up for a sexually explicit movie. Since they can't ask the two
stars to stand there naked for the long lighting tests and camera adjustments,
they use naked stand-ins instead. It turns out that a good way to meet a woman
is to be just such a movie stand-in.
The story finds a heart-warming way to wrap it all up. Don't be surprised if
it leaves you clapping and cheering and completely in love with love.
LOVE ACTUALLY runs 2:08. The film is rated R for "sexuality, nudity and
language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes