Love Actually

Our Love Actually experience didn’t start out too well. This was no fault of the movie, though. The ticket line moved like a snail, and was populated with the an obnoxious group of whining, screaming elementary school boys waiting to see “Brother Bear”. (I asked one of their caretakers which movie they were going to, because I’d have walked out of line right then if it had been Love Actually.)

Finally inside, finally through the slide show ads, the commercials, the 15 minutes of movie trailers, and the theater welcome clip, the movie begins. And then about ten minutes into it, sirens go off, lights flash, and a voice comes over the loudspeaker telling us to calmly head toward the emergency exits. Which, we do. I’m pleased to say that the lifetime of fears at being trapped in a crowd in a burning theater were completely unfounded. There was no panic at all. People simply ambled out in “What the @#*!” disorientation. Oddly, people were still buying tickets and going into the front of the theater. Finally the place cleared out and a fire truck arrived. The displaced movie watchers grudgingly moved aside to let it into the red-striped fire zone parking. The firemen walked unhurriedly into the theater and came out a few moments later. Burnt popcorn had set off the fire alarm. So, back to our movie.

The movie’s structure is like a Christmas party sweets table, full of enticing confections without any substance or connection. You nibble here. You nibble there. You indulge because it’s only once a year. Then one nibble too many and you realize you’ve overdone it.

Which is not to say that some of the tidbits Love Actually aren’t wonderful. They are. Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson give nuanced performances as a married couple on the brink of adultery. Hugh Grant is, as usual, affably charming. The movie brightens a notch every time he’s on screen. But Arnold Schwarzenegger playing governor of California is a hundred times more believable than Hugh Grant playing Prime Minister. On the other hand, Billy Bob Thornton as US prez is a perfect melding of George W.’s oily Texas facade over Richard Nixon’s cruel, manipulative eyes. And Bill Nighy’s aging lecherous rocker is also fantastic.

My favorite performance is by Thomas Sangster, who plays Liam Neesom’s step-son. They have the most wonderful talks, conversations between equals, between men hurt by love. It’s rumored that he’s Hugh Grant’s cousin. If so, talent certainly runs in the family.

There’s just a few too many stories. And although almost all of the characters are connected in some way, some aren’t at all. It might have worked better if none had been connected; if they were, as the movie first implies, the varied stories of an airport arrivals at a given point in time.

Bottom Line: Good, but not great. Rated R for a British sense of humour.

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