"Solid gold sh*t!" — Love Actually describing Love Actually
I know many of you are probably seething just reading the headline. But the fact is you're here now. Something deep inside of you knows I'm right.
Let's get a few things out of the way: I'm a devout Christmas enthusiast. I openly celebrate the reason for the season, I'm known to sport inappropriate Christmas sweaters (at Disneyland, no less), I start my Christmas music listening extravaganza in late October, and I'm a mulled wine fanatic. You need to know that I do have merriment in my heart; I'm not some Grinch who hates the holiday spirit. Furthermore, I am obsessed with British people and will forever feel inadequate for not having an adorably chic English accent.
But Love Actually is a flaming turd among sparkly baubles within the holiday film genre. These yuletide films tend to have a specific formula, and they encompass at least three of these four feelings:
- They make you feel warm and fuzzy.
- They give you hope.
- They are painstakingly relatable.
- They leave you better than when they found you.
Let's take A Christmas Story, for example. For many, Ralphie's obsession with a toy that ultimately proves the adults right is all too relatable. We've all gotten a costume from a family member that made us want to curl up and die. At the very least, you'll hope you create similar memories for your own children.
Then we have solid gold sh*t, Love Actually, which accomplishes none of these things, except for one: in some instances, the movie is relatable. But not in a way that makes you laugh, feel giddy, or gives you an overall sense of contentment. If you relate to anyone in this movie, you need to reevaluate your life choices: you've either fallen for your best friend's wife, attempted an affair with your married boss, or perhaps almost cheated on your partner. On the other side of the relatability spectrum, you've had relations with one of these idiots. The point is that holiday movies are supposed to make you cry because you're nostalgic about being a child during this whimsical time of year, or you miss your family, not because you're reminded of the fact that you were cheated on, or that the love of your life married someone else. Or that you're a washed-up rock star.
Love Actually is a well-intentioned film, but as the almighty proverb says, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." That should have been the tagline for this movie. Rewatching the film after a 13-year hiatus, I was reminded of all the truly terrible storylines within the movie. Where do I begin? There's so much ground to cover. Here's an actual screenshot from my draft of this post:
I guess it's fitting, though, to start at the beginning, before we start to smell the hot trash that is this movie. The only redeeming part of this movie is the opening sequence, where strangers greet their loved ones at the airport. Hugh Grant reminds us that love is, actually, all around. Once Grant's voice-over ends, though, all hell breaks loose.
And now, the grievances we all should have against Love Actually:
6. Does anybody care about their career?
Putting this out there: it's a bit ballsy to proclaim yourself as the property of the prime minister, especially when he's your boss, but Natalie has no qualms doing so. And Alan Rickman's assistant is less than coy about her affection for him. His wife being present doesn't even stop her! For shame. Interoffice romances can work out, you know, if you happen to start the company together. (I see you, Brian and Lisa!) But have these women no decorum? Natalie is on the job, like, three weeks. Pull it together.
5. Trim the Fat, and I'm Not Talking About Natalie
I'm still miffed that the one running joke in the film is about a woman who gets dumped because she is "fat" . . . but that rant is deserving of its own post. Trimming the fat, in this case, means getting rid of some characters. There are so many storylines that it takes 8:16 seconds before the title credits cease. That's got to be some kind of record! And this self-proclaimed "rom-com" is two hours and 14 minutes long. Hell, it's why I'm referring to most of the characters by the actors' names; it's easier to recall most of them that way!
Bill Nighy's washed-up, foul-mouthed, closeted-homosexual rock-star character would be the first to go, because the only purpose he serves is to infuse a blasé character into the catastrophic mix of relationships. You may be thinking, "But Kirbie, this is one of two comedic storylines in the film!" My point exactly. Fix the others and trim the fat. (And keep the same-sex scene that you cut!)
Another duo that needs to bite the dust? The porn-star couple. This plot line is so random, almost like it was thrown in last minute. "This movie is too depressing. What will make people laugh? Sex? BOOBS!" The two stand-ins don't have any connections to the other characters, which further proves my point. (The producer who also knows the weird British waiter doesn't count.) Also, what kind of high-budget porn is being shot in England? They have stand-ins and shoot in an immaculate penthouse! Perhaps I am not privy to the production value of porn, but it seems a bit excessive, especially for 2003. (Note: I am aware that they might very well be shooting a period piece, and not porn, but in most of their scenes they're naked and engaging in sexual acts. Am I the only one who thinks they're shooting X-rated content?)
4. The Realistic Poignancy of Liam Neeson's Storyline
One storyline that legitimately makes me cry in this movie involves Liam Neeson's character. The scenes are meant to be heartbreaking, as he lost his wife in the film, but they are especially so after his wife, Natasha Richardson, ended up passing away after a ski accident in real life in 2009.
That said, Neeson's scenes with Emma Thompson, who acts as a shoulder to cry on for his character, would be a redeeming part of this movie had we not known how history takes its course. She instructs him not to cry, because crying makes him "unshaggable" after losing his wife in the film, and it feels a bit aloof, even without knowing what would transpire in real life.
3. For the Love of God, Rick Grimes
I love Andrew Lincoln with every fiber of my being, but bring up his role in this movie and I'll be ready to pull a Negan. (I know, it's too soon for me, too. Sorry.) The poster-board love-letter scene would have been cute if, you know, the girl he was professing his love to wasn't his best friend's wife. Let's call it like it is: Andrew Lincoln is a sociopath. Don't worry, he's not the only one. Which leads me to . . .
2. Why Is Every Man at Defcon 1 on the Creeper Scale?
Colin Firth is a saint to women everywhere under normal circumstances, but he seriously grosses me out in this movie. As do most of the male characters, and that's the problem: none of the storylines go in-depth enough to elicit the term "heartwarming." There are too many stories being told, so it feels like Firth spends maybe 24 hours with the housekeeper before he's confessing his love of being with her, which makes me feel like he needs therapy after being cheated on. This isn't a bad thing, but he's very clearly on the rebound, looking to fill a void immediately following his breakup.
Hugh Grant's creepy antics as the prime minister make his act of chivalry during the presser with Billy Bob Thornton (I forgot about his appearance, too!) more moronic than romantic, especially since the woman he's trying to puff his chest out for is his employee. Even creepier? Finding his niece's Christmas Eve performance an appropriate time to become sexually aroused by said employee.
There's also the weird waiter who flies to America to become a sex god, Liam Neeson casually mentioning boning Claudia Schiffer in his stepson's bedroom to his stepson, and our precious Alan Rickman getting caught up in the attention of a younger woman, leading to an emotional betrayal of his wife. And finally . . .
1. The Relationships Worth Rooting For Leave You Dead Inside
There are two relationships you legitimately root for in this movie, and no, neither involves the child, although he is adorable. Both Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson's marriage along with Laura Linney and her crush on the creative director at her office are ruined two different ways. (Laura gets a free pass on the office romance.) Snape turns out to be a snake, entertaining the idea of cheating on his wife. I'm not positive they solidify that he did actually cheat, or that he just happened to give his assistant a fancy necklace. It is crappy nonetheless. And as great as Joni Mitchell is, his own wife deserves more than a bloody CD for Christmas. We all deserve more than a CD!
I was truly rooting for Laura Linney's character, though. She is the hard-working woman who keeps to herself. She doesn't see herself as the leading lady, à la Kate Winslet in The Holiday, but hell, she deserves to be. As giddy as I got when Laura ends up kissing the creative director — her longtime work crush — it diminished after realizing she was going to put others before her own happiness. In this case, she has a legitimate excuse: her ill brother. He calls several times during her intimate moments with the creative director, and she lets him take precedent over, perhaps, her opportunity to find love. (Or at least have sex. Whatever floats your boat.) But when will she put her needs first? The creative director seems to be genuinely into her; he's the most likable male in the entire movie! Her storyline seems to be the most relatable, too, albeit disappointing.
Somehow, all of this debauchery is considered a wonderful holiday movie. Just because there's a performance of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and Hugh Grant dances his way into your stone-cold heart doesn't mean it's a great movie. And sure, I get that it's one of those films that was made to make us feel like things don't have to be perfect during the holidays, but damn, if they can't be perfect during the most wonderful time of the year, when can they?