With as many stars and stories that are packed into Love Actually, there is always going to be an element of “hit-and-miss” with some of the tales. Fortunately, a lot of what Love Actually offers works very well. There is some great cast, some very touching stories and memorable moments which makes this one of the better films directed by Richard Curtis.
There is far too much to cover in one review so it is easier to focus on the key stories which work very well. There are at least three stories which stand-out amongst the others. Liam Neeson helps his step-son to find love by becoming musician, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson’s marriage hits a shocking bump and Prime Minister Hugh Grant finds love in an unusual place, with an unusual person. These three stories stand-out as they have the best performances, the best plots and development and are the ones that mix the humour, heartbreak and more touching moments very well.
The performances are fantastic. Emma Thompson sells her heartbreak without resorting to hysterics or full-blown theatrics. This makes for a more impactful performance. Liam Neeson feels far away from the character he plays in Taken, playing a more loving, kind and considerate role while Hugh Grant is very likeable as The British Prime Minister in one of the better roles from the foppish actor.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t other great performances. The rest of the film is filled with the Best of British in 2003. It is also a showcase for talent which is now huge today: Martin Freeman, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and recent Oscar nominee, Chiwetel Ejiofor. They don’t all get the best stories but do demonstrate why most are household names.
The way that the movie is written stops the film being too slow. There are stories which don’t quite ring true or don’t work as well as others. For example, the other heartfelt story involving Laura Linney has some good performances but lacks development. The Colin Firth tale needs more substance for it to ring true, although the resolution is presented in an amusing way.
The laughs do come regularly in the movie. Some are physical, a lot are conversational and others just come down to a decent cameo, for example the sparse but effective use of Rowan Atkinson. Music is utilised well and the soundtrack helps convey the emotion better than many other movies. It is testament to how well Curtis understands the importance of music.
Telling an anthology story is risky and although it isn’t perfect, Love Actually is an example of how well it can be achieved. Plenty of good stories, a clear mix of characters and good actors and a great soundtrack. Add the Christmas element and you get a very good festive movie. It is the film’s strength to say that many of the smaller stories within the wider film could hold a movie of their own and in some cases would benefit from that.
Overall, Love Actually is a very good Christmas movie. It demonstrates the great talented British cast in the early 2000s, as well as showcasing Richard Curtis’ directing and writing skills. It stumbles in places but does have a enough charm and Christmas spirit to make it a great film for the season.
Rating – 4.5
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