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Love Actually

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Love Actually

Starring: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson
Director: Richard Curtis
Rated: R
RunTime: 129 Minutes
Release Date: November 2003
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Laura Linney, Rowan Atkinson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Heike Makatsch, Kris Marshall, January Jones, Martin Freeman, Adam Godley, Denise Richards, Emma Thompson

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

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

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