Release: November 21, 2003 (wide)
by Kevin Lang
For the opening and closing sequences of director Richard Curtis's new holiday film Love Actually, the filmmakers hid cameras in an airport and caught unsuspecting passengers being reunited with their loved ones. The screen quickly became filled with these images, which took up squares that became smaller and smaller as they grew in number. It was the filmmakers attempt to prove to us that love does exist, and it is all around us.
This was the opening to a film that explored eight relationships during the hectic week before Christmas in London, England. The film succeeded in that no single relationship necessarily took precedent over any of the others, and they were all enjoyable in their own unique ways. Some of the relationships were developed more than others, but only because they were the stories that had the most appeal and required the most focus.
One of the most enjoyable stories was that of the recently widowed Daniel (Liam Neeson) and his young stepson Sam, who claimed to be in love with a girl at his elementary school. The two grew closer together as they found a way to get through their grief, devising ways for Sam to win the heart of the girl at school. This made for many heartfelt moments, from the two of them watching "Leo and Kate" in Titanic to Sam practicing to be a rock star to help his cause.
Then there was the story of the new The Prime Minister who fell in love with his aid, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). Their blossoming relationship grew rocky when he walked in on her as she unwilling withstood the advances of the visiting U.S. President. Billy Bob Thornton played the womanizing President of the United States. His presence onscreen in the film was like squirting ketchup over a delicious turkey dinner. The two don't mix and Thornton, although he was indeed meant to be preposterous, did not mix well with this film. The idea of Thornton as the President was a little too far-fetched and out of place. I would have welcomed Tom Cruise or even John Travolta.
The other stories were fairly enjoyable as well, including Colin Firth's Jamie, who fell in love with his non-English speaking housekeeper. There was also the story of Mark, Juliet, and Peter, which offered the memorable scene from the preview where Mark proclaimed his love to Juliet through a series of flashcards.
My only complaint with this film would be its R-rating. British films are often more casually open with nudity, especially in relation to humor, as is the case with this film and the two nude body doubles who fell in love. However, in the U.S. the film's R-rating will restrict the scope of its audience.
In the end, Love
Actually was a light romantic comedy (or comedies) that successfully
mixed an ensemble cast into a delightful holiday treat. Not all of the
stories ended on a happy note, which helped bring some balance into the
film. However, the stories that did end happily, injected just as much
reality as those that did not. With a strong soundtrack highlighting pleasing
stories that fit well together, Love Actually was a film that was
easy to enjoy.
"Love Actually" Review written November 19, 2003, CTF.
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