We have talked a few times in the past couple of months about the difficulty in finding something new to say about love, because of what a well-worn topic it is (perhaps the wellest worn?) but also our insatiable hunger for someone to say something new about because the truth is, love is kind of a big deal? (“Love is kind of a big deal” — my tombstone. 1933-2012.) I am no different! I’ve made it very publicly known that I love romantic comedies. I am weirdly looking VERY forward to this fucking thing? The problem with these things, though, is not just that they are so often bad, but that the ways in which they are bad are disappointing and insulting in a fundamental way that is altogether more painful to support than a bad, say, action movie. Like, if Jason Statham delivers a lackluster roundhouse to the face (not that he WOULD), you can still leave the theater with your head held high, but if you see someone making a money-grabby mockery out of a pretty basic human experience that we all spend a lot of time pursuing and enjoying and losing and rediscovering and thinking about and dissecting and listening to songs about and whatever, it’s a deeper frustration. It is like rubbing salt in a wound, except that instead of salt, it’s hackneyed meet cutes and stuffy, bloodless dialog. Bloodless dialog! In a movie about love! That stuff should be very bloody! Oh no!
When Love Actually begins, there is that briefest moment in which you carry the hope that maybe this movie will not be so bad, or maybe even good, at the very least perhaps it will do no harm, and then the dude is like “after the attacks on 9/11″ and you’re just like, “Ah. Fuck.”
Love Actually is an examination of all the ways people fall in and out of love that takes place within a comically short span of, like, three weeks. Seriously, I don’t have the time or patience to actually figure out what the timeline for this movie is, but it starts around Christmastime and ends around New Year’s and within that window everyone falls in love and out of love, like, 10 times. It starts at Keira Knightly’s funeral to Chiwetel Ejiofor. Well, actually, it starts at Heathrow Airport, because according to Richard Curtis, who wrote and directed the movie, love is a lot like an arrivals terminal at an airport? HUH? No it’s not. Oh, you mean, it’s boring and poorly lit and you just want to get the hell out of there? Shut up, Richard Curtis. Anyway, Keira Knightly’s getting married! Colin Firth is there because he’s friends with her and her new husband, I guess, not that they ever develop that relationship. As we will see, almost none of the relationships are particularly well explained other than the fact that they all seem to bring everyone to the same locations on a regular basis (airports, weddings, school plays). Oh, Colin Firth’s wife isn’t there because she is home sick, but she’s not actually sick, she is having an affair with Colin Firth’s brother. WAIT, AGAIN, WHAT? Like, if you’re going to have an affair, go ahead, but do you seriously need to fake sick to get out of a WEDDING between two people who (presumably, we’ll never know) have been to your house for dinner on a regular basis, just so that you can GET IT WET? Good grief. Well, you’re better off without her, Colin Firth. He, of course, retreats to his Portuguese villa because being white is hard. While he’s there, he falls in love with his non-English speaking maid. Hopefully he takes some time to sit and think if perhaps the reason he’s falling in love with this woman with whom he cannot even hold a conversation is just a desperate attempt to repair the violent hole that has been torn in his heart and life by his wife’s betrayal. Nope! He just takes Berlitz language classes (for two weeks) and proposes to her! This movie really gets at the heart of human emotions!
MEANWHILE: Hugh Grant is the new Prime Minster of England. He immediately falls in love with his housekeeper, too. WHAT IS IT WITH THESE MEN AND THEIR HOUSEKEEPERS?! But, like, literally, he walks into 10 Downing Street for the very first time ever and is already making eyes at the help.
Relax, your highness. He basically starts a war with the United States, ending decades of important alliances, because he’s jealous that the President kissed her, or something. Ugh. Eventually, of course, he fires her, but then also decides he loves her (based on a three sentence long holiday card?) and ends up kissing her at a school play, because politics. (Also at the play: everyone in the movie. Very popular school play!) The prime minster’s sister, Emma Thompson, is married to a magazine editor (or SOMETHING, it’s actually impossible to tell what it is. The office is VERY web 2003.0, though.) whose secretary is flirting with him something awful. She really wants to fuck him! He eventually decides that maybe he will fuck her, but at the very least he will buy her some jewelry from Mr. Bean.
Does he buy this jewelry at his leisure? As a sophisticated man at the head of a successful business, with a wife and children and years of experience behind him, does he decide to use his discretion? No. He tromps up to the jewelry counter during the 30 seconds that his wife is in the loo. Oh good grief. Is that how you boys do it over there? Emma Thompson finds the locket in his coat pocket (classic thing that’s always happening) and expects it for Christmas only to get a CD instead! Now she knows that he’s being unfaithful. Better wait until THE SCHOOL PLAY to tell him. Also at the school play: Liam Neeson. You see, Liam Neeson’s wife just died and now he has sole custody of his stepson. At first, he thinks that his stepson is depressed because his mom died, but in fact he is depressed because HE IS IN LOVE. Oh brother. (And again, perhaps Liam Neeson or a trained child psychologist should wonder if this young boy’s transference of all his emotional intensity onto a pre-pubescent object of affection isn’t just a wayward attempt to delay the inevitable absorption of crushing grief over his mother’s death? Just kidding. Let’s re-enact the scene from Titanic like a step-father and step-son should!)
The little boy decides that he will win his girl’s heart if he learns to play drums and backs her up at the Christmas show. So, he learns drums. In two weeks. FACT: it takes as long to learn how to play the drums as it does to become mildly fluent in Portuguese! After the show, the little boy is upset because he still doesn’t think the girl even knows who he is, which is when Liam Neeson gets the very dramatic idea of following her to the airport, and then, when they are not allowed through due to heightened security because of 9/11 (NEVER FORGET) of having his son LEAD THE POLICE ON A WILD GOOSE CHASE. Almost too good of a parent, Liam Neeson is. (Really wish the police had just shot the boy dead. LOL!) Oh, but here is the thing, so the boy catches up to her and tells her how he feels and doesn’t get shot in the face with a rubber bullet or anything, and the girl even comes all the way from her gate back through security (without her parents?) to give him a kiss on the cheek (violating dozens of international travel safety measures, I’m sure) and then we fade to black and discover SHE WAS ONLY LEAVING FOR THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY AND IS COMING BACK TO ENGLAND IN TWO WEEKS. So, the whole thing was really unnecessary. Just like everything in this stupid garbage dump of a movie.
There’s also this whole terrible, boring plot about some awful aging pop singer that I’m not even going to get into other than to point out that at the end he has some stupid revelation where he decides that he’d rather hang out with his poor schlubby manager rather than go to a party at Elton John’s house (sure) and I’d just like to point out that managers of rock and roll bands tend to make decent money if their client is successful, and are ALSO invited to parties at Elton John’s house, so, no.
Hi, Martin Freeman!
As a favor to Martin Freeman, I’m not going to pretend like he’s not in this movie. YOU’RE WELCOME, MARTIN FREEMAN! The same goes for you, Laura Linney. Make better choices, please!
The most unrealistic plotline of the whole movie is about this guy who is not having any sex luck in England so he decides he’s going to come to America in the middle of winter to Wisconsin and just fuck everything, and obviously it’s such a terrible idea and so misguided and ridiculous and everyone’s like “that is misguided and ridiculous” but then he tells the taxi to just take him to a random bar and he immediately gets so laid. So in reality, it’s actually the least offensive of the unrealistic plotlines because at least it admits its unrealistic. Everything else tries to hide this fact in layer upon layer of candy-cane scented barf.
Easter egg for the January Jones superfans:
OH, I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT HOW GRIMES IS KEIRA KNIGHTLY’S HUSBAND’S BEST FRIEND, BUT ALSO BASICALLY WAITS UNTIL AFTER THEIR WEDDING TO TELL HER THAT HE LOVES HER.
VERY COOOL, GRIMES. NOT THAT IT MATTERS. NOTHING EVER HAPPENS WITH THAT PLOT, THEY JUST SORT OF IGNORE IT. THEY ALSO NEVER TELL US WHETHER OR NOT ALAN RICKMAN SLEEPS WITH HIS ASSISTANT AND AT THE END OF THE MOVIE HE RETURNS TO THE AIRPORT FROM…WHO KNOWS WHERE…AND HIS FAMILY IS WAITING FOR HIM BUT HE DOESN’T SAY WHERE HE WENT DURING THE HOLIDAYS WITHOUT THEM?
This thing is fucking EXHAUSTING. I recognize that this week’s write up was mostly just a synopsis, but I do think that I have made my general point which is barf barf yuck barf fart yuck barf. I want a nap for Christmas!
Next week: Jingle All the Way.