Love Actually piles on levity and manages to soar

Nov. 11, 2003, midnight | By John Visclosky | 17 years, 2 months ago

There's hardly a romantic comedy cliché that goes overlooked in the wonderfully over-the-top Love Actually. You have Hugh Grant shaking his rear a là Tom Cruise in Risky Business, Liam Neeson trying desperately hard to help his stepson find love and Keira Knightley, Colin Firth and Emma Thompson looking like beautiful and adorably insecure romantics. Love Actually may not be very edgy or challenging, but it's more than good enough to leave you hopeful that you just might bump into your future spouse walking out of the theater.

Love Actually is about ten intertwined romances. The British Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) is courting his plump assistant Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), while his sister (Emma Thompson) hopes to hang on to her possibly wayward husband (Alan Rickman), who is the boss of Susan (Laura Linney), who herself happens to be in love with a younger co-worker, Carl (Rodrigo Santoro). On top of that, there's newly divorced writer Jamie (Colin Firth), who is attracted to his Portugese maid Aurelia (Lucina Moniz), and his newly-married friend Juliette (Keira Knightley), who happens to have stolen the hearts of both her new husband, Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln). Liam Neeson tops the bunch as widower Daniel, a man who must help his stepson tell a ten-year-old girl that he loves her. In the way of comic relief, there's the delightfully stupefied Bill Nighy as aging pop star Billy Mac, who spouts advice like, "Kids, don't buy drugs. Become a pop star and people will give them to you for free."

Although it clocks in at a long running time of 129 minutes, writer/director Richard Curtis jumps quickly from story to story, keeping the film moving at a crisp pace. While Love Actually is Curtis' first film as director, he wrote Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings And A Funeral, and fans of his past work should find plenty to enjoy with his latest outing.

Love Actually is packed to the bursting point with saccharine-sweet coincidences, spontaneous proclamations of undying devotion and of course, a little boy's first kiss. The actors are earnest, pleasant and overall a joy to behold. This was a fun movie to watch and you can tell that the crew and cast had a lot of fun making it.

True love is hard to find, and harder still to hold onto. It is very unlikely that any of the ways in which it is discovered in Love Actually could ever happen, let along in such close proximity to each other. But who cares about that anyway? There's still reason for praying that that special someone might just become your new cleaning person, or bump into you at your stepson's school Christmas pageant, or meet you on the set of your latest porno movie (don't ask me about that last one, go see the movie if you're that interested).

If all of this weren't enough, there's still plenty to keep the most staunchly American fans happy. On top of being chock full of famous British actors, Love Actually features Denise Richards in a cameo as a free-loving American girl and Billy-Bob Thornton as the American President with the politics of George W. Bush and the libido of Bill Clinton.

Love, in all its many guises, is a curious thing. You might find it when you're not looking for it, and act upon it when you know you really shouldn't. Sometimes love is terrific, but that's mostly in the movies. As Daniel's stepson says to him, "C'mon Dad, let's go get the s*** kicked out of us by love." That may happen in real life, but thank God that it doesn't happen to anyone in this movie.

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John Visclosky. John Visclosky is, suffice it to say, "hardly the sharpest intellectual tool in the shed," which is why he has stupidly chosen to here address himself in the third person. He's a mellow sort of guy who enjoys movies and sharing his feelings and innermost … More »

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