November 23, 2013

Love Actually

Richard Curtis, 2003
This romantic comedy is a collection of very different lives. Very different lives all searching for the same thing. Love. As the Christmas holiday approaches, the pressure to have someone by their side is felt by everyone involved.

It's a film that carries a light load with a lot of star power. Love is the clear theme shown early on, and it's delivered in various flavors. Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), the aging punk rocker who just recorded a Christmas album and is feeling the loneliness of being a musician. A political aide who catches the attention of a freshman Prime Minister (Hugh Grant). Harry (Alan Rickman), a husband who has a flirtatious secretary that he hides from his wife Karen (Emma Thompson). A writer (Colin Firth) who employs a woman at his country retreat that he grows a fondness for. A pair of nude stunt doubles who spend a lot of uncomfortable time together (Martin Freeman and Joanna Page). A child (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who has a crush on a classmate who seeks the love advice of his widowed father (Liam Neeson). A woman (Laura Linney) totally in love with a co-worker but doesn't have the courage to confess. A hodgepodge of different lives, intertwined. You get it. Lot's of stories. Almost like Crash without the drama and a lot of mistletoe, Christmas lights and ecstasy pills.

It's an ambitious film that's positively charged, but it's also very frustrating film at times. You would think that with such an ensemble cast that it would be a cakewalk. And they aren't to blame, the acting is actually quite fine. You feel yourself getting pulled into the emotional tone of the moment only to have the rug pulled out on you. You think to yourself, "this won't happen again" and then it does. Again and again. The erratic direction of each story-line never slows down enough for you to savor it. That and there's really just too many ongoing story-lines to begin with. You continue to feel starved for some kind of dilemma, while a lot of the characters get their happiness served to them on a silver platter. Clearly Curtis wasn't looking to settle into any dramatic moments, probably hoping to maintain a more light-hearted overall feel. But that makes it feel evasive. In the end the picture is as clumsy as an elementary school Christmas play.

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