LOVE ACTUALLY: The Classic Fool

Love Actually (2003) – Directed by Richard Curtis – Starring Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Sienna Guillory, Lúcia Moniz, Liam Neeson, Thomas Sangster, Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Martine McCutcheon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Laura Linney, Rodrigo Santoro, Kris Marshall, Abdul Salis, Heike Makatsch, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page, Olivia Olson, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, Claudia Schiffer, Nina Sosanya, Ivana Milicevic, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Shannon Elizabeth, Denise Richards, Lulu Popplewell, and Marcus Brigstocke.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I write a lot of reviews. I don’t like to call them reviews, as you’re probably sick of hearing me say, but reactions because I just want to talk about what I want to talk about.

I’m selfish that way.

Nonetheless, it’s hard for me to just sit and watch a movie. I’ve long since learned to keep my mouth shut while watching a movie with other people (most of the time, at least), but my brain is always humming. There are times when I think of how nice it would be to simply sit and watch a movie and enjoy it without analyzing it.

Which brings us to LOVE ACTUALLY.

I adore Richard Curtis’ love letter to love, and it’s one of the few movies that I can simply sit and watch and enjoy without my brain getting in the way. Yeah, I see the plot holes and contrivances, and I see the weak resolutions and the lack of actual depth, but I don’t care. LOVE ACTUALLY is crisp, funny, and deeply moving. It is impeccably acted, and while Curtis trades any deep examination of love for lighthearted sentimentalism, it doesn’t stop this wonderful film from being ridiculously touching and life-affirming.

That’s code for: it makes me weep uncontrollable tears of happiness.

It’s the rare movie that makes me cry – and I don’t mean getting all lumpy-throated or misty-eyed, but produce actually crying. I don’t think any movie ever hit me as hard as Cinema Paradiso (and if you haven’t seen Giuseppe Tornatore’s masterpiece, get over your hatred of Italians and watch it), but LOVE ACTUALLY does the trick, too. I don’t mean to imply that I’m some kind of robotic bad-ass incapable of emotions, either, but generally that I’m the kind of guy that isn’t going to believe the puppet is real if I can see the strings being pulled by amateurs. Curtis, however, is so deft at manipulating emotions and presents so many separate plots that it allows him to stick to the surface and juggle the highlights around. This style prevents us from really getting to know the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) or Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), but we get to see them at their most important love-related moments.

By having something like nine separate plots, we’re constantly jumping from one strand to the next. Some subplots are more important than others, but all of them have their moments.

And, you know, here is where I’d normally break the film down and talk about how fantastic Hugh Grant is as David (the Prime Minister) who might humble and stumble at first but has a real strength for protecting the picked-upon, whether it’s his nation or Natalie (the equally fantastic Martine McCutcheon). Or how the relationship between Daniel (Liam Neeson) and Sam (Thomas Sangster) is completely charming, or how Colin’s journey to America is sorta stupid, or how Martin Freeman and Joanna Page are sorta wasted in a cute but repetitive bit, or how I sometimes forget just how wonderful an actress Emma Thompson is until she makes you feel every single tear she sheds when she discovers that her husband (Alan Rickman) gave an expensive piece of jewelry to his hot, young secretary instead of her.

But I’m not going to do it this time. Silly as it sounds when we’re talking about a movie that’s about sharing, I really don’t want to share too much about my thoughts on this film. I don’t want to have to think too hard about it; I’ll over-analyze most everything but like a kid not wanting to hear the truth about Santa Claus for fear that it’ll ruin Christmas, I don’t want to turn my critical eye too sharply towards LOVE ACTUALLY. I just want to adore it. It’s silly, of course, because just like you still get presents after you realize Santa Claus doesn’t have time to visit every kid in the world on one night, and so hires out your parents on a work-for-hire basis, I’m sure LOVE ACTUALLY would still satisfy after I broke it down.

Maybe next year.

Be sure to check out the Holiday Review Index for all the Holiday-themed reviews to be found at Atomic Anxiety.