What do you do if you’re a romantic comedy swimming in a sea of also-rans and has-beens? If you’re Love Actually, you try a bit of everything that works – all at once. A charming movie that is almost as much a Christmas holiday spectacle as it is a romantic comedy, Love Actually pulls off a couple of miracles while putting its audience through as minimal tedium as possible. Debuting in 2003 and starring a who’s-who of British cinema, Love Actually holds up pretty well nearly two decades on and that’s in part to its classic charm, overreliance on standard situations and predictable narratives, as well as its embrace of its own quirky adventure.
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The Movie Review
One thing that is striking about Love Actually so many years later is how relevant and relatable it is. Burdened with the troubles of the world and the seemingly endless banality of it all, Love Actually shows us that disillusionment, disenchantment, and disenfranchisement are not just universal notions often associated with the holidays, they also exist somewhat distinct from time and space itself. Here we notice the first instance of the interchangeability of things. It isn’t that love actually overwhelms the audience with so many tiny stories as it is trying to teach us that, within these glimpses into the lives of others, we can find substitutions reminiscent of our own experiences.
This is interesting given that it is often easy to be taken out of the action when there are so many stars on screen. And there are tons of stars in this film – too many marquees to list on one sign, that’s for sure. Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Taken), Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Cloud Atlas, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery), and Emma Thompson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Men in Black 3, Cruella) are standouts per usual, but the rest of the cast doesn’t slouch in the least.
There’s a kind of refreshing vibe about it all. For once, you feel like you’re actually watching a full production instead of a menagerie of Hollywood stars.
Viewers who enjoy more intimate tales in this vein will probably not enjoy Love Actually. There are so many storylines going on at once that part of the fandom is dedicated to sussing out who is connected to who and how, creating extensive diagrams displaying how each character is tied to one another.
Sadly, this doesn’t come through on first viewing and, absent dedication, it will just seem like there’s too much going on for most viewers. Rather than savoring and contemplating any one story, the viewer is bombarded with narrative and often left scrambling to figure out what is what after all is said and done.
Thankfully for everyone involved, Love Actually avoids becoming a cloying, saccharine mess but also staps far away from the quagmire of disillusionment and disenchantment from which it both begins and at which it ends. Audiences looking for something different in the romance and holiday movie genre would do well with Love Actually.
- A different take on the romance/holiday movie
- Tons of interesting characters
- Realistic outcomes are driven by real narratives
- A lot going on
- So many storylines, and so little time to pay attention to them all
- Hard to tell whether it works better as a romantic comedy or a holiday movie