Saturday, March 15, 2008

Love, Actually

"Love Actually" (Richard Curtis, 2005) Curtis went from being the author of "Blackadder" and "Mr. Bean" to something of a Master of Chick-Movies after "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill." "Love Actually" was his stretching of his formula to "Babel"/"Crash"-like proportions. It's just "La Ronde" but with more coincidences and slop-over of story that the result is soon you cease to care who knows who. As such, its tough to make a precise calculation of how many stories there are. There's the guy (Colin Firth) who after a break-up goes to Provence and falls in love with his Portugese housekeeper. He knows the couple who meet "cute" as lighting stand-ins for a porno film. There's the recent widower (Liam Neeson) whose son has a secret. He's friends with the wife (Emma Thompson) of an ad exec (Alan Rickman) and she happens to be the sister of the new Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who has a crush on one of his staff, who happens to live next door to the secretary in love with the ad exec, whose employee (Laura Linney) has a not-so-secret crush on another ad-person, and that leaves out newleyweds Keira Knightly and Chiwetel Olojiofor, whose best man has a crush on...and on and on...England seems like a mighty small island, and everyone wants to get into everybody's else's knickers, literally or figuratively. It's surrounded by the story of a faded--make that acid-washed--rock-star (Bill Nighy, brilliant) staggering somewhere between Robert Palmer and Keith Richard, who has recorded a crappy Christmas version of "Love is All Around Me," which, for some reason, catches on. Plus, there are cameos by Billy Bob Thorton, Claudia Schiffer, Rowan Atkinson--basically anyone who wasn't needed on the sets of "The Lord of the Rings" or the "Harry Potter" films. The stories are happy, sad, contrived, bittersweet, tragic and occasionally prurient with quite a bit of gratudity. Neeson is as loose as he's ever been in a movie (he has the best line), matching Grant for light-comedy skills, Linney is charming and has the best laugh-out-loud moment, and its great to see Rickman and Thompson together again. It's a pleasant diversion, smartly written with the various stories achieving varying degrees of success.

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