Dec 28, 2012

[Movies] Love Actually (2003)

After "montage romantic comedies" like Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, one can't help but feel annoyed at how director Gary Marshall seems to have totally missed the point in terms of how these sorts of movies can work. Rather than a hodgepodge of scenes of various stories taking place at the same time, the opportunity for truly novel storytelling of this nature is missed time and time again. It isn't about the number of actors but the quality of the plot threads that tie them all together.

Thus we come back to this gem of a movie, Love Actually, that I feel best demonstrated this concept well before the Marshall movies and did it a heck of a lot better. And it comes as no surprise that this was a British production - they really have different sensibilities about these things, I feel. And while the movie still features a rather impressive cast of diverse actors and actresses, they are all merely players bringing a story to life instead of a bunch of stars that just happened to appear in a single movie. There's a world of difference to be found there, believe me.

This is a movie that never really gets old no matter how many times you watch it and it probably deserves revisiting from time to time.

Synopsis: Love Actually is a 2003 British romantic comedy written and directed by Richard Curtis, who is known for many great romantic comedies including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. The movie was nominated for an interesting mix of awards and actually helped Bill Nighy win the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

In a nutshell, the movie is about love, as obvious as that may sound. To be more specific, the movie is about various stories of love and the many different types of love in the world. And to tell these stories of love, we have several stories running in parallel to one another with the occasional intersection here and there.

We have aging rock and roll singer Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) recording an annoying Christmas version of "Love is All Around" but naturally his longtime manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) feels it's a good idea and one way to get an easy hit for the holidays. Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejofor) get married with the help of best man and best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) and all seems well. That is, all is well until Juliet watches the video of the wedding taken by Mark and realizes that almost all the footage is of her.

Also at that wedding was Jamie (Colin Firth), a writer. His girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) cheats on him instead of attending the wedding with him. He is heartbroken, but soon finds that he may have found love in his Portuguese housekeeper, Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), although she does not speak English. On the other hand there's Harry (Alan Rickman), husband to Karen (Emma Thompson). He is shown obsessing over getting his secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch) a rather lovely necklace without his wife knowing.

Karen's brother is David (Hugh Grant), who has just become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He seems to feel a connection with a junior member of his staff, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), but of course his position makes it delicate to pursue this affection. And there's also Daniel (Liam Neeson), a friend of Karen's who is dealing with the death of his wife. His main companion in things is his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster), who is trying to define his feelings for his classmate Joanna (Olivia Olson), despite everything else going on.

And there are number of other interconnecting stories that help tie things further together, although at this point I think it's best that you watch the movie to see the rest of it. If anything, I think I've covered the salient relationships and scenarios in that longer than usual synopsis. The end result is that almost all of these characters are somehow connected to one another, so much so that someone has created a Wikipedia section to illustrate these connections.

Now some may argue that there is just too much going on in this movie for this to be an effective narrative. In some aspects I may agree with you, but the goal is not exactly to tell the audience a complex series of stories. Instead we sort of have distilled moments of various aspects and versions of love and thus we are free to pick and choose what we like and what we reject and walk out of the theater feeling all warm and fuzzy over all. It may not sound like it makes much sense, but that's how it works, at least for me.

Thus the movie, I feel, does well in trying to evoke emotional responses from the audience while the rest of your brain is keeping tabs on the various characters and seeing where everything goes. This is a movie about love, a truly multi-faceted beast. But in its innate complexity, there's a simpler message to be found and it can be quite the poignant one. When you look at the critic's reviews there's a lot of negative things said about the movie due to the seemingly complexity of the large host of characters. But I think on a more conventional, personal level, more people find things to enjoy about this particular movie.

It's hard to pick a "love story" that I like the most in this movie. Naturally there's the inevitable draw of young Sam and his first forays into the world of risk and love, since we all love kids being rather precocious. There's also the complicated draw of the Juliet-Peter-Mark love triangle since we all love a little tension. Plus it's fun to note how the man who eventually became Sam Grimes on The Walking Dead is a bit of a sap in this movie.

And maybe because it's a Richard Curtis movie, we all enjoy seeing Colin Furth being all fussy and unmistakably British, as we've seen in the Bridget Jones's Diary movies. Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister was a tad hit-or-miss for me, maybe because he just can't help being Hugh Grant more than anything else. That may not make sense to some of you, but I'm others get what I mean.

And I was unable to elaborate on the story that involved Rodrigo Santoro, but I'll just leave that fact out there for those who are interested.

Love Actually is a not a movie that will change your life. It will not lead you to some amazing revelations about love either. It's more of a slice of life adventure of sorts, but this time you get to sample a wide number of cakes and pies and thus you leave with a warm feeling in your belly and a perhaps some in your heart, too. So I rate the movie as 4 interesting little connections between the characters outside their main story lines out of a possible 5.

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  1. Patrick C. Ocampo28 December, 2012 15:42

    Love the inter-connection chart; great research! And I completely agree; Everests above Valentine's Day!