Love Actually (2003)
Directed by Richard Curtis
I feel like I’m reviewing an undisputed classic, but “Love Actually” is only 10 years old. Do I even need to tell you how incredible director Richard Curtis’s 2003 Christmas-set romantic-comedy is? I shouldn’t, but I will anyway.
Showing a cross-section of London’s romantic landscape, “Love Actually” offers the loving perspectives of a married couple (Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson) on the brink of separation; the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), who discovers feelings for his secretary; a recent widower (Liam Neeson) and his love-struck stepson; an amateur writer (Colin Firth) and his new Portuguese housekeeper; two porn stars (Martin Freeman and Joanna Page) who let their feelings show; a sex-hungry 20-something travelling to America to meet a girl; a woman (Laura Linney) with a devotion to her mentally ill brother but a lust for her attractive coworker; an aging rock star (Bill Nighy) staging a Christmas comeback while hiding his feelings for his manager; and a hopeless romantic (Andrew Lincoln) desperately in love with his best friend’s new wife (Kiera Knightley).
A nearly perfect ensemble cast predates the desperate attempts by movies like “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” to throw stars at you until you’re struck blind. “Love Actually” manages to keep the talent flowing in a way that works ever in its favor. Genuine performances from Brits like Colin Firth and Emma Thompson make you believe the love and heartbreak their characters feel in a way that makes “Love Actually” more sentimentally powerful and deeply moving than any romantic-comedy I’ve ever seen, before or since. It perfects the genre.
Without a strong, poignant script, filled with sincere profundities about love and life, “Love Actually” would be no more than shots of the red carpet before the BAFTA Film Awards – dozens of talented British actors and actresses trotting their stuff without saying anything meaningful. In “Love Actually,” it becomes the base on which these superb actors work their movie magic, smartly weaving eight romantic stories together without losing you along the way. Like most things England produces, “Love Actually” isn’t afraid to explore some taboo topics like porn, mental illness, and homosexuality. It’s refreshing. When his stepson tells him about his school crush, Liam Neeson makes no assumptions about the gender of his love interest. But there’s one thing that really sets “Love Actually” apart: not all of these stories end the way the lovers in each of us might want them to. Love is imperfect. “Love Actually” gets it. It actually understands love in a way most rom-coms don’t.
In this delightfully entertaining take on love, music plays no small part. Working with perhaps the most expressive score I’ve ever heard, sometimes working to heighten emotions while sometimes only serving as background noise, “Love Actually” uses music like most movies don’t…or can’t. Songs by Joni Mitchell and The Beach Boys are proof that a perfectly-placed song can tell stories that even the best script can’t.
“Love Actually” is unbeatable, a classic, perfect for any time of the year. It fills your heart with so many emotions – real, undeniable emotions – you won’t know what to do with them. It stays with you, a real piece of cinema when most other rom-coms are just junk. Let me say, without hope or agenda – to me, “Love Actually” is perfect.