Thursday, February 23, 2012

100 Movies - No. 55: Love Actually

55. Love Actually (2003)
Comedy, Drama, Romance, 135 minutes
Directed by Richard Curtis
Starring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth and Liam Neeson

Here's a movie that works for Valentines Day, Christmas, or date night. But unlike most of the offerings for those occasions, Love Actually is both smart and funny. The reason it works so well is the writing and the acting. Richard Curtis is genuinely witty and knows what these actors are capable of. Although the movie is long at 135 minutes, I usually find myself wishing it lasted a little bit longer.

Most romantic comedies tell the story of one couple or two at the outside. Love Actually contains too many relationships to count and it doesn't restrict itself to romantic love. You'll also find the love between friends and family members. Some new relationships are formed, while others weaken.

There are so many good actors involved. Hugh Grant plays the Prime Minister and he's not in a relationship, but soon finds that he likes a member of his staff. Colin Firth plays a writer who sees his marriage threatened when his wife has an affair, but unexpectedly finds new love. Laura Linney's character has been in love with a work colleague for years, but has never acted on it. Her reasons eventually become clear and illustrate another kind of love.

My favorite relationship is the one between Daniel (Neeson) and his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster). Daniel's wife has recently died, leaving him to raise Sam. He worries that Sam spends too much time in his room, but eventually learns what the problem is. The relationship between the two is so warm and honest that it's almost impossible not to root for Sam as he attempts to resolve his problem. It leads to some of the funniest scenes in the movie.

You'll also find plenty of other good performances from the likes of Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman and Martine McCutcheon.

Not everything turns out perfectly for the couples involved. Some face threats to their happiness and not all of them can be completely resolved to their satisfaction. Love Actually examines love and the many forms it can come in. Some of the situations reach the expected conclusion and many are uplifting. A few are even surprising. I've just never seen a movie attempt to keep so many romantic threads alive throughout the running time. Against all odds, it somehow keeps us invested in the outcome of all the story threads by continually updating the progress of each.

According to my friends, I watch so many sad or depressing movies, but here's one that will lift your spirits. The opening scenes show how people allow their real emotions to show when they meet their loved ones at airports. That's essentially what Love Actually is about. To enjoy it fully, you'll need to allow your own emotions to show.

If you like Love Actually:

Hugh Grant has been involved in some of the best movies the romantic comedy genre has to offer. Try Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral or the charming About A Boy to see what I mean.

If you want a romantic comedy without Hugh Grant, Pretty Woman fits the bill. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts had great chemistry and the cameo from Hector Elizondo was just about perfect.

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  1. Love this movie! It's a must-watch for me at Christmas! Great cast :)

  2. I'm surprised at the positive reactions to the inclusion of Love Actually. I expected a lot of abuse for listing a romantic comedy.