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Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Colin Firth, Martine McCutcheon

Directed by: Richard Curtis
Written by: Richard Curtis
Distributor: Universal Pictures

US: 11/07/03
UK: 21/11/03

Ensemble comedy with ten separate (but intertwining) stories of love in London (with a small portion set in France), leading up to a big climax on Christmas Eve. One of the threads follows the brand new (unmarried) British Prime Minister (Grant) who on his first day in 10 Downing Street falls in love with the girl (McCutcheon) who brings him his tea (Thompson plays his sister; Rickman plays her husband). Another story follows the relationship between a stepfather (Neeson) and his young stepson.
Actually... twee's a crowd? Or Sitcom, Actually? Those who love Richard Curtis's unlikely and tediously bland vanilla rom-coms will no doubt be gagging for his latest piece of duff fluff. While others, such as yours truly, would rather have root canal work without anaesthetic than sit listlessly through another. Expect this to make Bridget Jones' Diary look like hard hitting socio-drama. Urgghhh.

9 Nov/Chicago Sun-Times: Linney just loves her leading men

Boston Globe/Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Trib/Film Critic
New York Post/New York Times
USA Today/Reel Reviews
E! Online/Hollywood Reporter
Rolling Stone/SF Chronic

"So you finally got tired of blowing your own trumpet?"


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"How Long Have You Been Working Here?"
"Joni Mitchell"
"That'd Be Fine"
"You Are Perfect"
"Just His Type"

Love Actually is totally one dimensional in terms of the male characterisations; after a couple of recent interesting departures in 'Bridget Jones' and 'About a Boy', Hugh Grant has gravitated firmly back to type as bumbling English buffoon and most unlikely Prime Minister ever (save perhaps for Iain Duncan Smith).

The bloke from The Office played bloke from The Office staring at an orifice, the zany character from 'My Family' played zany character goes stateside - cue hackneyed idea of American lovelies digging limey accents. This segment of the 'storyline' cried out for the character to be foiled at some point in the proceedings ie. they are prostitutes and he ends up having to pay, they are part of some Manson-like cult and he gets hacked to pieces or at the very least they are members of the 'Love Waits' sorority and he spends a night of frustration as the three of them give him nothing more than a collective Christian hug. But no, English geek goes to Midwestern town, gets laid and, er, that's it!

Exactly what were the redeeming features of a man who lusts after his best friend's newly married wife, having made a surreptitious and voyeuristic film throughout the wedding day for his personal viewing? And only when he is found out does he make a Dylanesque cue card appeal under his friend's nose. Keera Knightly's eager acquiescence (no great conflict of interest for her it seems) leaves us with the bitter taste of a sham marriage that will soon succumb to an affair and eventual ruination of a longstanding male friendship. But hey, it's love actually!

Laura Linney's love is curtailed and seemingly castrated by the demands of her schizophrenic sibling though why this should be a permanent obstacle is not explored or developed.

Alan Rickman's bemused media manager nasally whines his way through a mid life crisis, though we are left with the impression that the extent of his unfaithfulness has been merely to buy jewellery for a younger women and that he never actually tastes the forbidden fruit of his betrayal. His punishment, presumably, was to have some time away somewhere to contemplate his eratic spending and his appearance at the airport at the end of the film suggests there may be a chance of reconciliation with his wife via a hasty purchase in the Duty Free on the return journey.

Rowan Atkinson does a turn as Mr Bean, albeit a sartorially elegant, flamboyant version - hilarity is meant to ensue due to the consternation caused by a protracted giftwrapping ritual in which the package is placed in a plastic bag as transparent as the performance.

Colin Firth also reprises his familiar dour and depressed persona although there is a mutated D'Arcy moment in which he finds himself waist deep in water, only marginally wetter than when he first falls in, helping the object of his affection retrieve his work in progress, page by page from a lake. In this scene the Portuguese girl questions her act of salvage on the basis that she hopes it is worth it. Were we to make an allusion to Richard Curtis's dire screenplay then we would have to conclude that no effort whatsoever would be worth reclaiming this drivel, it should remain where it is - dead in the water.

Billy Bob Thornton is wasted and rather ineffectual as the US president, a hybrid of Clinton's lasciviousness and Bush's belligerence. Topical as it is to question the dubious and one sidedness of the 'Special Relationship' we are meant to swallow the idea that the PM is goaded into calling it into question in a press conference owing to his char lady being touched up by the Whitehouse incumbent.

Having altered the course of British foreign policy with this chivalrous act he then promplty has her sacked because he thinks he won't be able to keep his hands off her himself. It takes only a declaration of love in a Christmas card from the Cockney Sparra later on for Grant to have a Henry Higgins volte face ('By Jove, she's going to get it') and he races off to Wandsworth with a single armed escort to show that his feelings are reciprocated.

Of all the talent on board in this picture, Liam Neeson seems the most wasted and uncomfortable in his role. But in fairness this in no small part due to the fact that his very young co-star gives a convincing portrayal of adolescent angst and if anything this is the most honest perfomance given in the whole of the film. Any redemption in this instalment of the film, however, is undone by the excrable appearance of Claudia Schiffer as a would be available single parent, showing all the acting prowess that has got her all her advertisement work so far.

The penultimate location which draws most of the players together is set in a school - a progressive establishment no doubt as the nativity play on which they all descend has two children dressed as an octopus and a lobster; the birth of Christ as envisaged by Ionescoe perhaps but it's unfunny nonetheless.

The final scene takes place at the airport where the film began - the flimsy premise being that despite the global occurrence of war, famine, greed, treachery etc that basically people are benevolent beings, attested to by the fact that there wherever you look there are people hugging and kissing as they greet and say farewell to friends and loved ones. For anyone who has stepped into an air terminal, even just to see someone off, they would appreciate that if anything it is a microcosm of all the malevolent emotions of the human condition that give rise to the worldwide problems - impatience, selfishness, irritability etc.

Only two actors come out of this mawkish hokum with any credibility intact - Bill Nighy is a welcome relief from the celluloid syrup as the ageing rocker who delights in his bad behaviour while promoting his Christmas come back record which he flagrantly disregards as 'a load of crap' at every opportunity. His performance indicates a veiled awareness that he has the only genuinely amusing role in an composition of otherwise lame vignettes of attempted mirth. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Emma Thompson gives a decent portrayal of a woman realising that the fabric of her existence has been undermined and yet persisting stoically in the face of this upheaval.

Aside from the fact that this film fails to please at either poles - it is neither very funny nor engagingly melancholic - what is even more disappointing is that Richard Curtis feels that such leaden and cardboard cutouts of essentially Islingtonian life pass as a adequate snapshot of the current British way of life and seems satisfied that we might be represented as such to overseas audiences.


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