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Love Actually (2003)

All you need is love

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 135 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

I sometimes feel I’m all alone in not sharing the national enthusiasm for the quintessentially British films of Richard Curtis. When I watch the likes of ‘Notting Hill’ or Four Weddings and a Funeral I find it hard to believe they come from the same pen that brought us ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’. Compared to the biting wit of those early TV shows, this stuff all just seems phony and utterly toothless. ‘Love Actually’ is a film about love, as the title suggests. Part of the problem is that it’s not about much else. A marvellous ensemble cast comes together to play out a series of spuriously-linked set-pieces about various dullards getting the hubba-hubbas for each other. Included in the jumble is Colin Firth as a novelist who falls for his Portuguese maid Lucia Muniz, Emma Thompson who suspects hubby Alan Rickman of extra-marital naughties, and Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister who drools over tea lady Martine McCutcheon when not standing up to America (now there’s a thought!). From a British perspective, it has the most impressive cast of the year. It mixes faces known for their TV work (e.g. Martin ‘The Office’ Freeman, Andrew ‘Teachers’ Lincoln and Kris ‘My Family’ Marshall) with those already well-known on the big screen circuit such as Grant, Rickman, Liam Neeson and Keira Knightley. The performances are good and the production values are high – it’s just a pity that most of it just isn’t particularly funny. What’s more, it substitutes depth for countless sketchy sub-plots, involving a string of characters we never get to spend enough time with to care about. Nor, to be honest, would you probably want to. The majority of them are far from fascinating individuals. It’s also unbearably warm and soft-centred, to the point of over-whelming falseness. Particularly vomit-worthy is the thread involving Neeson’s attempts to guide his stepkid through the pitfalls of puppy love. Pass the sick bag. This is Curtis’ first stint in the director’s chair – let’s hope he didn’t get too comfortable, because this is a film in desperate need of, for want of a better word, direction. There’s no overall focus, and subsequently no overall point. His is a world where gathering crowds of extras are always waiting to applaud whenever any couple share their first kiss, and everyone who falls in love automatically has that love requited. It’s a nice world, sure – but it’s also a very boring one.

It's Got: Bill Nighy getting by far and away the funniest scenes in his role as a past-it rocker plugging an atrocious Chrimbo single.

It Needs: A decent ending, as opposed to one that doesn’t make a great deal of sense.


Plenty of people will love this film (you know who you are), but personally I couldn’t wait to escape the theatre by the time the full 135 minutes had been wrung dry.