Spoiler Alert: Plot elements of the film Love, Actually are discussed below.
I finally saw the film Love, Actually this week. I’ve been hearing about this film for years, from people who praise it lavishly. I’m not generally a fan of rom-coms, but fans of this film assured me that it really isn’t one. And when I heard who was in it — Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Colin Firth, among others — I knew it was a must-see. I know, this is generally thought of as a Christmas movie, but I never got around to seeing it over the holiday. When I learned that Amazon Prime would have it for only another week or so, I figured it was time to watch.
I should have waited. Never has a such stellar cast had to work with such a worthless, idiotic script. Every scene is more far-fetched than the last. It leans heavily on stereotypes, it’s filled with fat-shaming, and one plotline — about romance blossoming between stand-ins on the set of porn movies — seems to have no purpose at all except as an excuse to show a lot of nudity. That one has the distinction of being one of the most implausible subplots in a film that is crammed with implausible subplots.
Perhaps an even worse subplot is the one about the sandwich delivery guy. He is stupid, obnoxious, inarticulate, sexist, and unattractive. But he becomes convinced that the reason girls don’t like him is because they’re British, and he’s sure that gorgeous, uninhibited American girls will fall all over themselves for the privilege of having sex with him. He travels to Milwaukee, bringing no change of clothes, just a large backpack stuffed full of condoms. From the airport, he goes to the nearest bar, which is a dive filled with stereotypical working-class drunks — and one young woman who looks like a Victoria Secret model. She is immediately attracted to him, and calls her friends, who also look like lingerie models. They invite him home to stay with them, but apologize for the fact that they are so poor they own only bed, and no pajamas, so they will all have to share the bed with him, naked. And they’re Americans, so one of them has to wear a cowboy hat, like a softcore Singing Telegram. It reminded me of a Monty Python skit, but with no humor, and a punch line that never comes.
Real people don’t act that way. In fact, real people don’t act the way any of the characters in this movie act.
I do not blame the actors. Most of make a terrific effort, despite the profoundly bad film that holds them prisoner. The cast was the only thing that kept me from turning it off in disgust after the first twenty minutes.
Emma Thompson broke my heart with her portrayal of a woman who realizes her husband is cheating. Bill Nighy cracked me up as a misbehaving aging folk singer making a comeback with a mediocre Christmas song. And little Thomas Brodie-Sangster is adorable as Liam Neeson’s precocious stepson, as both try to get past the death of the boy’s mother. It is a mourning process that takes about a day for the child, and five weeks for the bereaved husband. Instead, what really has the little boy upset is a case of unrequited love for a girl at school who doesn’t even know his name and is, in fact, moving away. He decides to attract the girl by becoming a musician in the school pageant, and his stepdad actually agree that this lamebrained plan is a good idea, though neither explains why his being a drummer will change her family’s plans to move out of the country.
Speaking of the pageant, this is an elementary-school production in what is described as a “dodgy” neighborhood — an elementary school pageant with the production and performance quality of a university show. And wouldn’t the band had to have had a drummer at least a few weeks before the performance, when he did not yet know how to play? But he plays like a pro in no time.
In fact, nothing in this movie makes sense. Hugh Grant is the U.K. Prime Minister who has a crush on his new assistant. He is Hugh Grant, so he is charming and funny, though not terribly convincing as a world leader. He walks in on her and the American President, who is making unwanted advances, and he immediately changes his government’s pro-U.S. policy in response. And then, though he knows she was the victim, he has her reassigned to a different job, with no explanation to her. She should be pissed at him, but when he seeks her out on Christmas Eve, she is thrilled and allows him to sweep her off her feet and into his arms.
When I heard that this movie was a collection of vignettes about love among a group of vaguely connected people, I thought it sounded like a British version of the silly 1970s television show Love, American Style. Now I know that such a comparison is an insult to Love, American Style. Why did these top-notch actors agree to do a film that is such shallow, idiotic drivel?