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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.65%
Worth A Look46.04%
Average: 9.35%
Pretty Bad: 7.91%
Total Crap: 5.04%

8 reviews, 91 user ratings

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Love Actually
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by Erik Childress

"In Fact, In Reality, Essentially – I Loved It!"
4 stars

Love Actually is one of the most unabashedly romantic films I’ve ever seen. It makes no apologies for entrenching its Altman-like character list in clichés while your most cynical inner vibrations scoff at how neatly some of its strands come together. I grant you everything since “come on” truly has a double meaning with this film. But the plain of innocence where this film resides is not merely out of simplistic necessity to warm our hearts or out of intentions to do well; it does have a point to make. And if “love is all around” is all it is, then dammit, so be it.

Actually it’s Christmas that’s all around if the opening sequence has anything to say about it. Writer/director Richard Curtis cleverly recalls his Four Weddings and a Funeral anthem by turning the remake of the original tune into wretched holiday poppycock. It’s sung by fading rock ‘n’ roll star, Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) hoping for one more hit, even if it is for a diddy he can’t help but mock at every turn.

He is just one of over a dozen characters we’ll meet along the way to true love. Hugh Grant is the newly elected Prime Minister who takes an immediate shine to the most frank member of his staff, Natalie (the unbelievably fetching Martine McCutcheon). Similarly, Colin Firth is a writer who catches the eye of his own servant (Lucia Moniz) despite neither being able to speak the other’s language.

Liam Neeson’s Daniel has just lost his wife and now doesn’t know how to communicate to his 11-year old stepson (Thomas Sangster) who is going through his first bout of puppy love. Daniel’s friend, Karen (Emma Thompson) is married to Harry (Alan Rickman) who has lately been receiving some suggestive offers from his own secretary (Heike Makatsch). Another co-worker at the office (Laura Linney) has also been (not-so) secretly pining for the “enigmatic chief designer”, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). Oh, but we’re not done.

Where there’s a funeral, there’s also a wedding between Dirty Pretty Thing’s Chiwetel Ejiofor and Pirates of the Caribbean’s Keira Knightley. The wildcard third party and best friend of the groom, Peter (Andrew Lincoln) carries some resentment at this union, but who does he resent or is jealous of? And don’t forget (even if the film occasionally does), the naked stand-ins (Martin Freeman & Joanna Page) on the movie set or the horny sandwich vendor who believes a trip to America is just the Viagra he needs. One almost has to appreciate him stumbling into a real-life dream sequence (in a Wisconsin dive bar of all places) with never a trace of waking up. It’s more punchline than reality and couldn’t help but laugh as it’s played straight.

Curtis does a wonderful job at cutting into each and every storyline; some more compelling than others as his central message is laid on thicker than cement mixed with a McDonald’s milkshake. For the first hour or so, the whimsy factor may be too unbearable for those with even the most ardent of sweet toothes. But Curtis manages to keep us grounded from time-to-time as that pesky thing known as life swoops in to pull the rug out from under our fantasies. We hope (and, frankly, assume) that everyone here is destined for a happy ending and while most end up with smiles, a few are still left to dream under the blanket of contentment.

It can’t be a coincidence nor a cheap ploy by Curtis to briefly mention 9/11 in Grant’s opening narration. His implication that love is everywhere, only not as newsworthy as hate and destruction, is manifested in his hallmark commercial of a bookend where the airport’s arrival gate is full of anonymous smiles, hugs and kisses. And what’s more symbolic in the inherent clichés of romantic comedies than the airport?

How often have we watched one party chase after another in hopes of one last goodbye or stopping the plane? A pretty tall order now the way airport security is today, making such a symbolic gesture a thing of the past. There are no less than three dashes in Love Actually’s climax to airports or otherwise to declare one’s love to another. You don’t think that Curtis is manipulating that cliché? Even as ill-advised as one character behaves at Heathrow, his determination to not let this moment pass him by and its resulting catharsis is as touching and beautiful a moment I’ve seen all year.

The cast is uniformly terrific up-and-down with standouts being Nighy as the nothing-to-lose rock star and both Thompson and Linney bringing some dramatic weight to their characters’ predicaments. Grant’s encounter with the U.S. President (a cameo to be named later) proves to be both comical and moving and young Thomas Sangster gets some of the film’s best moments towards the end.

Curtis, in many respects, can be viewed as the male equivalent to Nora Ephron. Except his screenplays have bite in-between the bouts with saccharine. His directorial debut, much like the other Working Title productions punch-up moments with the familiar sing-along pop tunes, but they work because he allows them for the characters and not to churn our juices. When Grant’s Prime Minister consequently delivers a defining moment for both his country and his personal feelings in one fell swoop, he earns the right to dance around his offices to the Pointer Sisters.

Even recalling the film’s lighter brushes with tragedy and disappointment, I still had a great big smile on my face during the film and well after I entered the night air. I felt a bit of rejuvenation in some respects, eager to return as soon as possible to these characters who recall the agony of love and still reminds us how beautiful it can be in all possible definitions of the term. The film would likely benefit from being a bit longer to flesh out some of the storylines, but what’s there is fun, charming, moving and a neat trick to turn the clichés of a “happy ending” and make them seem genuine. Part of me fell in love during this movie. And I didn’t even need an airport to remind me of that.

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originally posted: 11/07/03 17:02:08
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User Comments

11/25/17 Suzanne One of my favorite movies ever - but the Wisconsin plot was ridiculous (Southern accents?) 5 stars
12/20/16 Charity ABSOLUTE BRILLIANT FILM. Brilliant casting. Brilliant acting. Brilliant writing. 5 stars
4/03/12 Shirley Temple Thomas Sangster was one unappealing little boy. How old is he now?, 2 stars
3/23/12 Les S. A bit of a slow start but it pulls you in and you find yourself enjoying it. 3 stars
1/08/11 Beverley Sporck Sends all kinds of messages. Great to view around the holidays. 5 stars
8/06/09 Simon A lot of the reason we do see movies is to feel good. A cheesy guilty pleasure 5 stars
12/01/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
12/03/07 Ionicera sweet and shallow 3 stars
9/01/07 johnnyfog Schitzo plot, but Liam Neeson's in it, so it's OK. 4 stars
5/14/07 David Pollastrini All the women in this film are hot! 3 stars
4/12/07 Dark Enchantress If i could give it a zero i would! Oh yeah that girl kiera knightly is a slut! 1 stars
2/09/07 Stanley Thai One of the better romantic comedies. 4 stars
12/02/06 William Goss Stuffed, slight, but undeniably charming. Nighy provides snarky oasis amongst the schmaltz. 3 stars
5/06/06 Ashley Hinz I love pieces of this film, just not all of the characters. 4 stars
9/27/05 Corinne Pettersen I adore this movie, especially Carl - please can you give me more information on him. 5 stars
4/15/05 Danny Takes a while to get into it, but worth the time. 4 stars
3/08/05 Hydrian Good romantic flick without being too mushy to deter the guys. 5 stars
2/05/05 Amy Bradshaw Such a sweet film, quite refreshing. 5 stars
12/27/04 mjoc Adequate holiday fare 4 stars
12/25/04 Hugh Janus Too cutesy by the guy that played Karl was fucking deadly...SCHWING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 stars
12/13/04 Helen Great movie!! Also loved the music 5 stars
10/24/04 michaelb14 Very feel good, funny movie for the holidays, Nighy is hilarious 4 stars
9/27/04 alicia definitly a chick flick..but a damn good one 5 stars
9/05/04 Dave My whole family loved this film. Funny and touching. Emma Thompson remarkable. 5 stars
8/16/04 John charming and immensely entertaining 5 stars
8/05/04 Chris this movie had maybe too much to say but very sweet and endearing. worth checking out. 4 stars
7/18/04 Daveman I was left with mixed feeling but I won't deny I enjoyed it. 3 stars
7/15/04 S.F Total crap...actually! 1 stars
6/19/04 Monster W. Kung A piece of crap! 1 stars
5/23/04 Vic & Helen We loved it...a happy, warm and romantic comedy 5 stars
5/04/04 Beverley Sporck Need to view it a couple times to 'get' most of it anyway. Thought provoking with humor. 5 stars
5/03/04 chris. packing bad stories into a movie to fit the alotted time does not make a movie "ultimate" 1 stars
4/29/04 The Dude Britain sucks, but the movie was good. 4 stars
4/23/04 Jack Saw it on a plane and found it delightful with a bit of truth but no universal truths 4 stars
4/22/04 Littlepurch. A bit too pointlessly sad in places but some moments were v.funny and acting was all gr8. 4 stars
4/11/04 valerie hart not my sort of thing its too romantic !!9BUT GOOD IF YOU LIKE THAT SORT OF THING) 3 stars
4/10/04 Gemma An absolutely fantastic heart warming film that had me gripped all the way 5 stars
4/07/04 harriet best movie ever actually bloody fantastic 5 stars
3/13/04 wrob Textbook, pithy, sentimental pap. Painfully cliche and predictable at the same time. 2 stars
2/03/04 jacqueline robson love actally is all around good 5 stars
1/25/04 amy not for the cynical or self rightuous 4 stars
1/24/04 Saf aWESOME MOVIE--saw it 3times in the first couple weeks! 5 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody This was such an awesome film! Will never get tired of HG in the same role every movie... 5 stars
1/19/04 Cathy It revamps popular cliches with devilish British humour. 5 stars
1/18/04 Carol Shanahan CRAP ACTUALLY 2 stars
1/15/04 Heather Purplethorne Ending has some feelgood fluff, but the getting there -- TOO LONG! 3 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Good cast rounds out this hopelessly contrived, overdone romantic comedy. 2 stars
1/14/04 Chupa Chups I thought it was good! cheesy, but touching. 5 stars
1/10/04 Chris You cannot be serious! Have our tastes slipped this low??? 1 stars
1/10/04 Shadaan Yikes ! 2 stars
1/10/04 ness you HAVE to see this film 5 stars
1/08/04 Mokina It was a really sweet movie not everythings about sorrow,good to see that portrayed 4 stars
1/02/04 OnlyChild It's a sweet movie.. 4 stars
12/31/03 christina thomas sangster made me love this movie, he was the best actor there 5 stars
12/30/03 Chlo Gyllenhaal I thought this was really good! Cheesy, but the sort of film that just made you smile! 4 stars
12/29/03 your worst goddamn nightmare you might get this if you really really love someone... loved it, actually... 4 stars
12/28/03 Donelle Occasionally quite funny, over-inflated, deliberate audience manipulation & predictable 2 stars
12/27/03 John Bale The ultimate Xmas feel good movie with a fine cast. Lotsa Fun. 4 stars
12/23/03 Dee Fantastic Film. loads of hot men, the funniest film I have seen in a long time. 5 stars
12/21/03 Littlepurch Some depressing bits but v. funny overall. Loved it, actually. 4 stars
12/17/03 Greg Register Without of the most entertaining films I have seen in years. 5 stars
12/16/03 Michelle Teeva, you must be a women's rights lesbian, get off it. 5 stars
12/16/03 jada most hot men in one movie 4 stars
12/16/03 Teeva so sexists, every woman subserviant - while exposed! gratuitously. 1 stars
12/15/03 Ginnie Roberts Brilliant 5 stars
12/15/03 Kent I enjoyed it - funny & thought-provoking. 4 stars
12/15/03 christina Gee this is the bst movie ever 5 stars
12/13/03 Carla It was fabulous! Alan Rickman is the best! 5 stars
12/12/03 Viv Phillips Xmas feel good movie for 2003 ! Yeah Poms you sure know how to do it! 5 stars
12/10/03 Jummai It had warm funny scenes and you werent forced to laugh and enjoy it, came naturally 4 stars
12/10/03 katrina lomas feel good and fun 5 stars
12/09/03 Vicky Adams I loved it. I bet everyone watching could relate to one of the stories 5 stars
12/03/03 Hayley Absolutely terrible. Calculated, stereotypical, sexist and racist (against the Portuguese). 1 stars
12/02/03 the muffinman who the hell is karl and where can i find out more about him hes sexy 5 stars
12/01/03 president billy bob Too many low points to mention all - a very sappy R-rated chick flick,not a film for guys. 2 stars
12/01/03 guisada yes 5 stars
12/01/03 LordJiggy A brave masterpiece about choice and choosing love...even if it costs you. 5 stars
11/27/03 Mike H Crap, actually. Which is surprising considering the great cast. 2 stars
11/23/03 jrsygrl I enjoyed the film because it leaves you with a warm-fuzzy feeling - - and a smile. 4 stars
11/23/03 Bobbio Best film of the year, great cast, very funny. 5 stars
11/22/03 amy made me feel warm and fuzzy, without hating myself for it 5 stars
11/19/03 Johnny's Been Rotten Saw it. Loved it. Most charming movie of the year. 5 stars
11/18/03 nick2k very cute and adorable... "we're gonna get the shit kicked out of us by love" 5 stars
11/17/03 marzio too many boring little stories... 2 stars
11/16/03 Deanna I will quote the film "Say Yes you skinny moron" and go see this with someone you love. 5 stars
11/12/03 john fun, love trip...light hearted ... mooshy 5 stars
11/12/03 Heather Perfect Christmas & date movie, charming British movie 5 stars
11/11/03 Tyler GOOD MOvie 5 stars
11/09/03 Max Ernst The greatest date flick ever. Went 2x, 2 diff girls, both: score. Love this film! 5 stars
11/07/03 Cameron Slick If you're going to be dragged to one chick flick this year, be dragged to Love Actually. 5 stars
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  07-Nov-2003 (R)
  DVD: 27-Apr-2004



Directed by
  Richard Curtis

Written by
  Richard Curtis

  Hugh Grant
  Liam Neeson
  Alan Rickman
  Emma Thompson
  Laura Linney
  Keira Knightley

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