in comic look at that most frustrating emotion
Love! If you’re in it, if you crave it, even if the cynic in you believes it can’t be found, writer director Richard Curtis brings you face-to-face with the widely misunderstood and, in this case comedic, emotion known as love.
Curtis, responsible for writing the successful British romantic laughers “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill,” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” makes his directorial debut with the ensemble comedy “Love Actually,” short for, love is actually all around, proven so by a myriad of characters whose common thread is love and more importantly the quest for it.
A brief but meaningful voiceover by the charming-as-usual bloke Hugh Grant at the start of the film instantaneously ignites a warm-and-fuzzy feeling and primes us for the love–lost, love-found themes to follow.
The meaning of love, as it relates to each character in this six degrees of separation story, is depicted in varied forms. Love, lust, infatuation, infidelity, and even co–dependency are some of the dilemmas which unfold during the weeks before Christmas.
Hugh Grant plays newly appointed Prime Minister David, an affable chap who seems quite down to earth for a P.M. Grant hits his usual charismatic range as an actor, portraying a public figure who has a crush on staffer Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). His desire blossoms, but so too does his sense of the moral thing to do to uphold the standards of his office. David has the object of his affection removed from his office, but soon regrets it. His crush–turned–love is overwhelming and he decides to pursue Natalie once and for all.
Daniel (Liam Neeson) is dealing with the recent death of his wife while re-acquainting himself with his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster), who is deeply in love with a classmate. Although it is a young love, it’s valid just the same and he vows to do whatever it takes to win her over. Neeson’s fatherly advise deepens his bond with Sam, whose love for the young girl grows more intense.
Harry (Alan Rickman) endeavors to resist the mounting temptation to sleep with his secretary, but fails. His infidelity is a difficult hurdle for wife Karen (Emma Thompson) to overcome and the experience leads her to question her role as housewife and mother.
Sarah (Laura Linney) has an intense love for a gorgeous co-worker who loves her back, but neither one can muster the courage to tell the other. As Sarah struggles to communicate, she also deals with the co–dependent bind she has with her mentally challenged younger brother.
Jamie (Colin Firth) is a broken-hearted husband and writer recovering in his country cottage who finds new love with his non-English speaking maid. He and his new love endure the challenges language barriers can cause.
And that, actually is just the beginning. There are plenty more stories of love to find in this interconnected romantic comedy, with cameos by Rowan Atkinson and Billy Bob Thornton and notable performances by Bill Nighy and Keira Knightley.
Love is a powerful emotion. Ten stories about ten loves crammed into a running time of 135 minutes may be a bit excessive and, to be sure, there are minor flaws. The vignettes could stand to have been fleshed out more, and the characters often play sappy in their quests for love. But sappy is the inevitable collateral damage from romantic comedies, and Curtis shows skill in dabbling there, and then pulling out at just the right moment.
Love is universal and does conquer all, even for the biggest commitment-phobes among us. With a talented ensemble cast and the solid writing of Curtis, “Love Actually” is something actually worth viewing. Just as with true loves, here you will likely be willing to overlook the minor flaws and accept a large dose of feel-good. It just may be what’s needed to start off the holiday season.