Love Actually (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/11/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 135 mins

Come one, come all and wonder at the finely-constructed marvel that is Mr. Richard Curtis’ Cynical Manipulation Machine! You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! And you’ll go home feeling ever so slightly used…

Richard Curtis could very well be the Smuggest Screenwriter Alive. After the successes of the likes of Four Weddings and A Funeral, Bridget Jones’ Diary and the utterly nauseating Notting Hill (to say nothing of Blackadder), his name is synonymous with British romantic comedy.

So it’s hardly surprising that he’s decided to turn his hand to directing and Love, Actually is, at the very least, an assured debut. Shame about that God-awful tag-line, though. (“Very romantic. Very comedy”).

No Plot As Such

There isn’t really a plot, as such – it’s more like nine inter-linking short stories with an all-star cast, though there’s nothing particularly clever about the way they link up and it doesn’t really add anything to the film.

The film is set in the weeks before Christmas (as if it wasn’t sentimental enough) and the most notable story involves Hugh Grant’s splendid turn as a bumbling Prime Minister falling for his maid (Martine McCutcheon), although in sheer scene-stealing terms, Bill Nighy gives him a run for his money as an aging rocker staging a comeback by recording a cynical Christmas cover of Love Is All Around (one of several smug Curtis in-jokes).

Other stories include: Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman as a married couple whose relationship is strained by Rickman’s sexually aggressive secretary; Liam Neeson as a widowed step-father teaching his ten year old step-son how to woo the girl of his dreams (yes, the kid spouts words of wisdom beyond his years – how did you guess?); Andrew Lincoln as an advertising executive who falls for his best friend’s wife (Keira Knightley)…

Then there’s Colin Firth as a divorced writer finding love with his non-English speaking Portuguese housekeeper; Laura Linney as a workaholic with a huge office crush; and, in perhaps the sweetest (and shortest) segment, Martin Freeman (Tim from The Office) struggling to maintain a professional relationship with his porn movie stand-in co-worker…

To be fair, the acting is superb across the board and there are some genuinely hilarious moments here, as well as a couple of endings guaranteed to raise a tear or two - there are NINE stories to wrap up in sickly sentimental fashion, after all, so it’s a safe bet that at least one will work.

Cynically Manipulative

The problem is that it all feels so cynically manipulative – Curtis might as well be flashing up subliminal signs saying “LAUGH!”, “CRY!”, “VOMIT!”. Who knows? Perhaps he is. At any rate, the film works, but you may end up being annoyed with yourself for getting sucked in.

There are other, minor criticisms, too. Firstly, there are too many characters, to the point where it’s hard to care about all of them, particularly when some storylines are off-screen for twenty minutes or so.

Also, given that Curtis has come under fire before for his treatment of black actors (specifically in his vision of a Whitey Whitekins Notting Hill), it’s a mystery as to why he would cast an excellent actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor, from Dirty Pretty Things) and then give him next to nothing to do – as Keira Knightley’s husband he barely even has any lines. Similarly, Laura Linney has an entirely gratuitous topless scene that seems to belong to another film entirely.

That said, Love, Actually is enjoyable despite its patience-testing running time and it’s to Curtis’ credit that he doesn’t feel the need to wrap up every single storyline. You could also do worse than bet on ‘Christmas Is All Around’ being the Christmas Number One this year. Well made and worth seeing, but don’t be surprised if the warm glow dissipates shortly after leaving the cinema.

Film Trailer

Love Actually (15)
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Content updated: 22/10/2017 16:27

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