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Actually, “Love Actually” is Awful

December 8, 2014

Sometimes I can’t keep the logical, judgmental part of my brain quiet long enough to enjoy a movie that is supposed to be fun. People are falling in love, and I’m sitting there thinking, “In six months they’ll hate each other because they spent the first month of knowing each other lying about who they really are.” Or “why is it that the universal sign for a career woman is super straight hair pulled back out of her face? Do career-driven women not like voluminous hair? Is that a thing?”

This inability to disconnect from reality increases ten-fold with an ensemble cast. Try as I might, I cannot stop analyzing each of the relationships in Love Actually, and deeming most of them hopeless and, in several cases, more annoying than your neighbor’s dog who won’t stop yapping at everything that moves.

Here, in order of least annoying/unbelievable, to most annoying/unbelievable, are the relationships in Love Actually:

Apparently Joe isn't handsome enough to be in any of the photos with Billy Mack.

Apparently Joe isn’t handsome enough to be in any of the photos with Billy Mack.

9. Billy Mack and Joe

Props to Richard Curtis, the writer and director, for including a friendship in the mix. Billy Mack is the most obnoxious character in this movie, but he’s supposed to be. This friendship is completely believable, based on the small amount of information I have about the music industry. Billy Mack doesn’t change a bit at the end of the movie, but at least he’s honest with Joe, and tells him how much Joe means to him.

Liam Neeson, before he stole Harrison Ford's place in Hollywood as "slightly aging action hero."

Liam Neeson, before he stole Harrison Ford’s place in Hollywood as “slightly aging action hero.”

8. Daniel and Sam (and Joanna)

It’s hard to be critical about a recently-widowed man who helps his lovesick stepson impress his first crush. Granted, they watch Titanic, which is not the movie I’d choose to show true love, (there was room on the piece of wood for Jack, ROSE) but it’s sweet to see them work through their grief like this. I have a sneaking suspicion that years later, Sam is the reason high school guys started planning elaborate “prom proposals.” I mean, he learned to play the drums a month before the Christmas play, for crying out loud. The kid goes all in.

LA_DavidNatalie

What platform do you think PM David ran on? “I’m way more handsome than other prime ministers!”

7. The Prime Minister (David) and Natalie

First of all, how can we trust a movie that expects us to believe that Hugh Grant could be the Prime Minister of England? Second, we’re supposed to believe that Natalie is fat? Can we just not? Could Hollywood stop trying to make us believe that women like Natalie are fat? This little subplot certainly has its high parts, like when he and his driver sing carols to the little girls, or the fact that Natalie has the couth of a middle schooler who just learned how to use cuss words. But it would all be a lot more believable if Hugh Grant played something a little less important. Like maybe a company CEO, or a local politician.

LA_JohnJudy

This was before he became a doctor, joined the army, then came home and started working for Sherlock Holmes.

6. John and Judy

This is the part of the movie that makes you glad for TV-edited versions to watch with your family. I get what Richard Curtis was doing here. John and Judy are in what could be a very awkward situation for two strangers, so they get through it by talking about the most normal, mundane things possible. But my personal views on the industry in which they’re supposed to be working makes it hard for me to see past that, and appreciate their meet-cute. 

LA_SarahKarl

Please get help, Sarah. Karl seems like a really nice guy.

5. Sarah and Karl

Sigh. This is a tough one, because I don’t want to sound insensitive, but please find a hospital for your brother that will better monitor him so he does not call you all day, every day. Surely it’s possible for Sarah to lead a somewhat normal life, with relationships besides her mentally ill brother. I don’t really know what the point of this particular story is supposed to be. Are we supposed to feel sorry for Sarah? Mad at Karl? Proud of Sarah, that she puts her brother first and loves him unconditionally? Worried that Sarah seems to neglect every other part of her life in order to take care of a brother who is already being taken care of by medical professionals? I don’t get it.

This is apparently what American girls look like, as imagined by Lisa Frank, I suspect.

This is apparently what American girls look like, as imagined by Lisa Frank, I suspect.

4. Colin and the American Girls

Has Richard Curtis ever been to smalltown America? I’m sure women like this exist in some of them, but please calm down. This storyline makes me start to wonder if this whole movie is satirical. Or maybe I just don’t have as great a sense of humor as I thought. I don’t even know what else to write, because the women in this particular story are so ridiculous, anything I write would pale in comparison to how stupid the notion is that he meets so many beautiful women who want to jump in bed with him after five minutes of hearing his accent. And then he comes back to England with two completely different women, each dressed like cowgirls, if cowgirls were based solely on Lisa Frank illustrations.

If this story is supposed to just be fun, and not necessarily accurate to what it would really be like for a dorky British man to visit America, then why is it told alongside other stories that are (apparently) supposed to be believable? We see husbands and wives who are struggling with the temptation to cheat. We see best friends who have been together for decades. Then there’s a dad who just experienced heartbreak, but still helps his stepson “get the girl.” And then we have these caricatures. Make up your mind, Richard Curtis.

LA_HarryKaren

UGH. That’s all I can say about this story. UGH.

3. Harry, Karen, and Mia

Mia wears devil horns to the company Christmas party. Do I even need to say more? It’s as though Richard Curtis didn’t think we could gather from her flirtations and her line “dark corners for doing dark deeds” that she was an awful person who was trying to seduce her boss. Thanks for the clue, Richard! “Oh, so she’s a bad person because she’s wearing devil horns! And the girls wearing cowboy hats in that other story line were Americans…gotcha. I could never have gathered that information from all the context clues!”

Emma Thompson, of course, shines in her role as Karen. When she opens her gift to find a Joni Mitchell CD, instead of the necklace she found in her husband’s coat pocket? And then she cries in her room, takes a deep breath, and puts on a happy smile for her kids two seconds later? I want to see a movie about her. In that movie, I’d like to see her dismantle Mia.

I give them until they have to start talking about real things. Like who paid the water bill, and why doesn't he write books using a computer.

I give them until they have to start talking about real things. Like who paid the water bill, and why doesn’t he write books using a computer.

2. Jamie and Aurelia

Love conquers all. Apparently, even the ability to speak the same language. But it’s okay everybody! The subtitles show us that they’re basically saying the same stuff, but in different languages! And you know it’s true love because Jamie saw her take off all her clothes, down to her skivvies, and saw her tramp stamp. The way the camera scanned her, from top to bottom, is evidence that he made sure to see it all. It’s true love, guys. Then he flew all the way to Portugal to sweep her off her feet, and meet her obnoxious family, including a sister who is not as funny as she probably thinks she is.

I give them six months. Right up until they have to have a real conversation about who paid the water bill, and why Jamie keeps losing his novel to gusts of wind because he won’t use a computer.

1. Juliet, Peter and Mark

I get the distinct feeling that Keira Knightley is exactly like her character in Love Actually. When she sees herself on video Keira (like her character Juliet) says “I look quite pretty.” Then Keira spends time in front of the mirror perfecting the acting skills she used in this movie. These skills include “looking off into the distance while maintaining a friendly demeanor” and “casual thinking that turns into a revelation and a big smile” and “big smile that melts into a look of contemplation.”

Keira Knightley sat in front of a mirror for hours perfecting this look.

Keira Knightley sat in front of a mirror for hours perfecting this look.

But she’s not even the worst part of this love triangle. Mark, the best friend and best man of Peter, takes the prize for Most Selfish Male Character in Love Actually. You know what, buddy? If you’re in love with a girl, say something before the wedding, or keep it to yourself forever. But confessing your love to Juliet after the wedding, after you have spent months acting as though you don’t even like her, is a really selfish and immature move. What is she supposed to do with that now? Oh, and real clever move, having the CD of carolers playing while you confess your love to your best friend’s wife. Classy. Can you imagine how awkward it would be to hang out together now? Every time Peter leaves the room, Juliet and Mark just stare at each other. “Hey, remember that time you confessed your love to me five weeks after I got married to your best friend? Good times.” Oh, and hiring a bunch of musicians and singers to spontaneously burst into song at their wedding is really cute and all, but now we all know you did it just to cover up the fact that you’re in love with Juliet. Please move to America and meet one of those smalltown girls that Colin met. You’re perfect for each other.

What do you think? Is Love Actually the greatest Christmas romantic comedy? Or do you have a love/hate relationship with it like me?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. dawnomite permalink
    December 8, 2014 4:15 pm

    I loved reading this! Every year, I watch Love Actually while addressing my Christmas cards. The stories are so familiar that I can look away and just listen to the silliness (like PM Hugh Grant dancing to The Pointer Sisters) or all the parts with Mia (who is so infuriating). I don’t disagree with you – yes, so much of this is just a fairy tale – but I still totally love it. I love that Sarah’s story is just meant to be a sad one. She’s given the man of her dreams on a silver platter and she chooses to allow her codependency with her brother drive her choices. I think it just might be the most realistic story. I love the sadness of Liam Neeson’s story too, because it makes that grand finale in the airport with their big wide smiles totally earned. I love that Colin Firth and Aurelia get together at the end, because it’s so sweepingly romantic (and the score is the absolute best there). I love that goofball Colin who goes to America because he gets exactly what he wanted, which was not where I ever expected that plot to go the first time I saw it. It’s just so stupid and funny, especially that he finds all the hotties in a dive bar in Milwaukee. Billy Mack is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in a movie. It never stops making me smile. I love Bill Nighy, he’s such a stud in all of his movies – and his role in LA is bloody hilarious. Your commentary on Kiera Knightley is SPOT ON, and yes her story with Mark is pretty crappy, but it does yield emotional dividends. I always stare at her hair in the hat in that scene, like wow, how many times I have tried doing the same thing with mine – making it look just sloppy enough to look casually gorgeous. (True confessions! And of course mine has never once looked as good.) I love Natalie and how she loses all sense of impropriety around her boss – exactly why he loves her. Those two actors have great chemistry.

    Here’s my theory: I love Love Actually because of two things: the music and the British actors. You put God Only Knows by the Beach Boys at the end and I’m sold, hook line & sinker. Plus a little sexy Norah Jones (“Turn Me On”) and the sad Joni Mitchell stuff. And then all these adorable actors make everything good! (The American equivalents, Valentines Day – which was UNBEARABLE – and the other one, New Year’s Eve or something? – never saw it – are suckfests because they are just stupid Americans in all their dumb storylines.) The Britishness of it all makes it so much more charming. (Except Sarah, the random American who lives in London.)

    Sorry for the mega comment. 🙂

    • dtdorrin permalink*
      December 8, 2014 5:02 pm

      I think you hit the nail on the head on the two main reasons why this movie is so popular:
      1. It lets you run the gamut of emotions, from happy, sad, and silly. If this were like a Nicholas Sparks book/movie that was just sappy mess that ended with one or both main characters dying, it would intolerable.
      2. It’s full of British people. 🙂 I’m a sucker for just about anything that has British actors, and I’d probably realllllly dislike Love Actually if they did a shot-for-shot remake with Americans.

      It really does have some great moments. I just can’t get past the really silly ones to completely enjoy the great moments!

  2. dawnomite permalink
    December 8, 2014 4:18 pm

    It should say “loses all sense of PROpriety” above, not IMpropriety. Oops.

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