johnlink ranks LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)

Being Christmas, Liz wanted to watch something festive and uplifting. All for that idea, I was happy to watch LOVE ACTUALLY again. A really sweet large-cast movie about the definition of love, this is a film which embodies the Christmas spirit without being a film wherein people are buying Christmas Trees and confronting some sort of specifically ‘Christmassy’ problem.

LoveActually

I watched LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) on 12.25.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and first in a half-dozen years.

This is a film which tells the stories of multiple people and couples, all of whom have some sort of loose relationship with each other. This all takes place in London in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Here are the major story lines, and the nature of love in each one:

Daniel (Liam Neeson) has recently lost his life. His throws himself into helping his 10-year-old stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) pursue a schoolmate he has fallen for. The nature of love in this segment involves the idea of ‘the one’, the concept of moving on after the loss of love, and the birth of love as an emotion.

John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are two adult film stars who have sex every day, but are awkwardly trying to find a way to spark a romance as well. The nature of love here concerns the idea that sex does not equal love and the joy of requited love

Jamie (Colin Firth) is a recently single man who falls for his housemaid Aurelia (Lucia Moniz). The only problem is that they don’t speak each others’ language. Here, love is not bound by language or culture. Love requires a leap of faith.

Sarah (Laura Linney) has a crush on a coworker named Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) but her familial life prevents her from engaging in a relationship. Here, love is found in the sacrifice often inherent in selflessly caring for a needy family member.

Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson) are happily married with two kids. But Harry’s secretary, Mia (Heike Makatsch) is pursuing him hard. He’s having a hard time resisting. In this track, love is something which requires work, but is worth the work. Love, then, is not easy.

Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Juliet (Keira Knightley) are newlyweds. Peter’s best man, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) appears to loathe Juliet. The truth is, Mark is in love with her. These characters represent a duality of love. What is a man to do when he is in love with his best friend’s wife? How does he walk that line? Mark does it amazingly well in the film. While the result may not be grounded in reality, it is a sweet idea.

Colin (Kris Marshall) is a Londoner looking to go to America to tap into the United States’ major natural resource: Beautiful and loose women. This is the weakest segment of the film. Not because the idea is that love equals sex, but because the entire thing lacks believability in a film with some supremely grounded performances.

Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is a pop star who has recorded a horrendous Christmas-time pop star. He awaits word of its success as he realizes how important his manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) is to his life. For Billy, love is the friendship found in a lifelong supporter. Some read Billy’s proclamation as an admission of homosexuality. The film doesn’t make much of an argument for or against that, instead allowing it to be whatever the viewer would like it to be.

The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) is starting his fist term. He immediately falls for one of his young staff members, Natalie (Martine McCutheon). He has her redistributed to a new job when he can’t stop his feelings for her. In this segment, love is not bound by a power structure. The Prime Minister is just a susceptible to romance as the worker who lives in the dodgy end of town.

So, as it can be discerned, this is a movie which doesn’t define love in a simple statement. It uses the cache of its stars to establish character quickly. The above doesn’t even mention small roles by the likes of Billy Bob Thornton as the US President, Mr. Bean as an annoying clerk, and a series of beautiful women including January Jones, Ivana Milicevic, Elisha Cuthbert, Claudia Schiffer, Shannon Elizabeth, and Denise Richards.

Some of these segments are superb. My favorite are the Harry-Karen portions, The Billy-Joe stuff, the PM and Natalie. The very best is Daniel and Sam, with Liam Neeson playing a wonderfully supportive stepdad.

The only one which I would classify as weak is Colin to America stuff. I honestly feel like this would be a better movie without it. All the other stuff has its moments, but don’t quite hit the heights the aforementioned bits do.

Because so much gets crammed into this 135 minute movie, some of the events occur in far to easy a fashion. There are plenty of movies in this segmented dramedy genre which get derailed for this very reason. But LOVE ACTUALLY succeeds, in part, because its energy is so positive and optimistic that one can’t help but finish the movie feeling better about the world.

SCORES

FILM: 6; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 8; WRITING: 7

6+8+8+7+0=29

FINAL SCORE: 7.25

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~ by johnlink00 on December 26, 2012.

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