Love Actually (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
"I got a part in the Nativity play. I'm a lobster."
"Oh .... um ... is that a good part?"
"Well, yes. I'm the FIRST lobster."
Love Actually is a Hugh Grant movie.
That would normally be a sufficient amount of commentary, since all Hugh Grant movies are alike, and in a typical case I would just be pointing you toward my comments about Two Weeks Notice rather than re-typing those remarks, but this particular Grant film requires some elaboration in that it is actually all Hugh Grant films. Yup, every single one. They have taken About a Boy, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Notting Hill, and all of the others, condensed each of them into a ten minute tidbit, then wound all of those individual stories together around a Christmas theme.
Since Mr Grant is not known for the great differentiation between his characters, it would be too confusing to have him play all nine of the male leads, even given a wide selection of disguises and an assortment of floppy hair colors. He is therefore assigned only to play a pseudo-Blair version of the Prime Minister, while various other lads are assigned to play the Hugh Grants of Christmas Past, Present and Future. By far the best of all the Hughs is Bill Nighy, the Ghost of Hugh Grant Yet to Come, who plays a character very much like Keith Richards, a 50ish rock star who is completely ashamed of a commercial holiday jingle he has recently recorded from one of his older songs which wasn't that good to begin with. As a man in the later portion of his life who has taken every shot and survived, he no longer cares what people say about him, so he throws all caution to the winds and tells the truth about everything, often in politically incorrect ways, and he absolutely steals the movie from the rest of the highly talented cast.
"So kids, just remember this message from your Uncle Billy:
Whatever you do, don't buy drugs ....
Just become a pop
star and people will give them to you for free."
Hugh is, of course, playing the part of Hugh Grant. In
fact, it is getting to the point in his career where there is really
no need for his characters to have a different name from film to film.
The directors may just as well call them all Hugh Grant. Like Pia Zadora, he is
always playing himself. Except, of course, at a somewhat higher level
than Pia Zadora. Well, that and the fact that Pia's a "her". But I
Hugh does quite a good job playing the Prime Minister the way the British would like him to be: warm, human, and unwilling to let the single most important country in the development of the world be treated as a 51st state by America. (Billy Bob Thornton plays the American President as a slick but boorish cross between the worst aspects of Presidents Bush and Clinton, melding Clinton's personal amorality with Bush's geopolitical amorality.)
Not everything works in this film. Some of the eleven thousand sub-plots deliver absolutely nothing to the film, and some of the situations dissolve into high schmaltz. And you have to drop the film several grades for the presence of Mr. Fucking Bean, who managed to make thirty seconds worth of material into what seemed like an hour's worth of shameless milking and mugging, as well as a level of twitching that would have embarrassed Art Carney.
Critics were split. (Metacritic score: 56)
Nonetheless, I praise it whole-heartedly. It's great to see somebody deliver a romantic comedy that is rated R because the people in it actually speak and otherwise behave like adults and not like some Disneyfied Hollywood version of how adults should behave in front of children. And I don't mean that comment to be entirely about sex, language, and nudity. I mean that the characters think in all respects like mature adults, and behave accordingly. They speak from the heart, and they are often witty. Sometimes they regret what they say and do. Sometimes their souls reach lofty heights, and sometimes they screw the pooch.
It is a film which manages to be both warm and edgy, a difficult combination to manage.
In short, it is a romantic comedy which is both funny and romantic while remaining intelligent. Since there are so few films which accomplish that, we need to forgive its faults and love it unconditionally.
"You mean there was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?"
Scoop's additional comments after having seen the
Because Love Actually is a fairly traditional romantic comedy, the situations are contrived. Unlike most American attempts at this genre, however, it actually does show recognizable human beings speaking in natural ways. It's rated R because it includes plenty of ribald humor, shows quite a bit of sex and nudity, and represents adults talking like and behaving like adults.
More than anything else, it is a movie about how people cope. When it comes to the major changes in our lives, like weddings and deaths and falling in love, I suppose that "coping" is what more of us do more of than any other human activity - more than planning, certainly, because so few of us really can or do plan for the major changes in our life. In a very warm way, Love Actually shows a lot of people coping with romantic opportunities and romantic problems, often fucking up, sometimes moving forward.
In a nutshell, I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. The script manages to cut the sentimentality with plenty of humor. Well, it diluted the sentimentality enough to satisfy me, but I guess I have to warn you that it is still a shamelessly sentimental movie which was intended as a Christmas film, and it also features Hugh Grant, so if that ain't yer cuppa java, stay away. If you have an open mind, you can get a lot of laughs out of it, and feel a lot of genuine interaction from the characters. I'm not a great fan of Mr Grant, but I thought he did a commendable job here as a pseudo-Blair Prime Minister who becomes the British hero of the hour when he stands up to the American President.
The DVD is terrific. It has exactly the features I want. (1) a good widescreen anamorphic transfer (2) full length commentary by three witty guys, writer/director Richard Curtis, and actors Hugh Grant and Bill Nighy (3) a ton of deleted scenes brought up close to "finished" quality, introduced and explained by the director, then presented in their entirety without interruption. (4) special bonus: more nudity in the deleted footage!
The deleted footage also includes another scene of Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) being incredibly naughty in a semi-public place! Pretty funny scene.
Curtis also points out in the deleted footage that his first cut was nearly three and a half hours long. The fact that he had to cut it approximately in half explains what I felt to be the film's only major weakness - the fact that there seemed to be too many sub-plots for the running time, which made some of the stories seem unnecessary, while others seem unfinished or underdeveloped.
Good DVD. First class all the way.
Tuna's comments in yellow:
Had I read a plot outline before seeing
it, I would have passed completely. The plot outline would read like a
sappy romantic comedy with way too many characters and too many happy
endings. Amazingly, what I screened today is one of the best films of
last year. For those who haven't seen it, I am not going to reveal
much of the plot, other than to say it is the story of several loosely
interrelated couples and their romances set in London in the month
leading up to Christmas. I can't recall a better piece of ensemble
acting than this huge cast displayed, and the pace was perfect,
switching from one subplot to another before I tired of it. The net
effect was that I was glad every time characters reappeared to advance
their subplot further.
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