Love Actually Movie Review
The writer of two of the funniest romantic comedies ever to hit the big screen, Bridget Jones's Diary and Notting Hill, makes his directorial debut with Love, Actually, an enjoyable new film for the holidays.
Richard Curtis leads an all-star cast that includes Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thomspson, Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney and even a cameo appearance from Billy Bob Thornton as the President of the United States of America, who in turn are all a part of a huge web of love blossoms that are emerging as Christmas approaches. Grant plays none other than the British Prime Minister, who realizes he is in trouble when he falls in love with one of his assistants on the first day of the job. Firth plays an author that has fallen in love with his maid, even though neither of them can understand each other, and Rickman plays a family man who is considering cheating on his wife (Thompson) with his secretary. Neeson plays a father whose wife has died, and who has just discovered that his young son is "in love" with one of his classmates. Knightley, a newlywed, discovers that her husband's best man is in love with her.
Needless to say, this movie has more romances than any other romantic comedy ever, but they are still all packaged into a two-hour running time. So does that mean eight times the comedy, or eight times the sappy scenes that all straight men dread? Or, to lead to the correct answer, somewhere in the middle? Somewhere in the middle! Love Actually, much like Curtis's other movies, has a pretty good blend of romance and comedy. Curtis's romantic comedies are by far the funniest, and thus Love Actually is easy to watch, even for guys. It has plenty of laugh-out-loud scenes, et cetera. On the other hand, with eight different stories going on, the movie does sort of go into sappy mode at times. Still, even sappy mode for Curtis is not hard to watch.
Obviously, some storylines are better than others. Eight major storylines divided evenly into 130 minutes leaves about 16 minutes per story; that's not much time to develop the characters. Curtis succeeds fairly well at making us, the audience, care about his characters, but there are a couple of storylines that aren't quite as good. The storyline involving Kiera Knightley, where the guy is in love with his best friend's new wife, seems a little off-the-wall; if a real person did what he did, he would get slapped and then get beaten up. Also, the Laura Linney storyline might have been good had it been given a full length story, but crammed into a few scenes here or there it seems a little too undeveloped. Furthermore, while the general outline of the Prime Minister storyline works (including the movie's obvious message that Tony Blair should stop taking it up the butt from President Bush), Curtis seems not to have been able to tap Grant's full potential; Grant isn't nearly as funny as he usually is. Rowan Atkinson is also wasted; he is only given two small cameo sequences that hardly allow him to speak.
On the other hand, some stories really shine. The story about Liam Neeson's son is sweet and fun to watch, and the bilingual relationship that ensues between Colin Firth and his maid is also heartwarming. Bill Nighy's storyline about his return to the top of the music charts is by far the funniest of all arcs in the movie.
With all of the storylines set in different contexts, it seems as though Curtis could have made the funniest romantic comedy yet. He does not do that. Love Actually is funny, but not nearly as much as I was expecting and hoping for. The last half of the film is still entertaining but not extremely laugh-out-loud funny. That being said, the entire movie is still entertaining and touching. It is an easy-to-watch romantic comedy that can easily appeal to men and women, as it avoids most serious aspects of relationships while providing plenty of quirky things that can, in theory, happen.
It doesn't rate up compared to a couple of Curtis's other offerings, but still ranks high up on the list of romantic comedies, and comedies in general.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.