Love Actually is an interweaving collage of stories pertaining to that most cherished of
emotions--true love. Finally, a delightful piece of Christmas fluff to chase away visions of chainsaw-wielding serial killers.
As Love Actually begins, we are told that perhaps the world isn't such a dire and hateful place, that ''love actually is all around.'' Around London, anyway. The film explores no less than seven different romantic scenarios within the bustling British capital--all of which interconnect and eventually resolve on Christmas Eve. There's the newly elected, dashing Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), who is smitten with his secretary, the earthy Natalie (Martine McCutcheon); Karen (Emma Thompson), whose husband Harry (Alan Rickman) has strayed with his seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch); Sarah (Laura Linney), the American wallflower who has a crush on her colleague Carl (Rodrigo Santoro); Jamie (Colin Firth), who falls for his pretty Portuguese housekeeper Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) there are lots more but you get the gist. As love goes, things may not get tied up neatly in brightly colored packages for everyone, but there's still enough good cheer to spread around.
Showcasing some of Britain's finest actors, Love Actually doesn't have a bad banana in the bunch. Floppy-haired Hugh Grant turns in an endearing performance and proves there isn't a romantic comedy he can't handle. He has an uncanny knack for connecting with any actress he happens to be romancing; in this case, it's the adorable McCutcheon, best known for the hit British TV drama EastEnders. Rickman and Thompson are quite good as the couple whose long-term marriage is beginning to crack; Thompson especially does a nice job trying to hide her pain while being a happy mom. Linney, too, shines as Sarah, who glows with excitement when she finally gets what she so ardently wished for. Veteran stage and film actor Bill Nighy (Underworld), however, steals the show as a carefree aging rock star desperate for a comeback. His Billy Mack smacks of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Rod Stewart all rolled into one.
''I'm worried that we don't have the word 'massacre' in the title,'' writer/director Richard Curtis fretted to Entertainment Weekly, referring to how horror-loving American audiences might not take to his new romantic comedy that is already a huge hit in Britain. True, perhaps a romantic comedy starring a multitude of A-list British actors might not bring in the required masses. But who cares about the money (did I just say that)? Curtis, who has written some of the best romantic comedies of the last decade, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary, steps behind the camera for the first time here and is able to give each story a unique point of view, from the lovesick to the wacky. There actually may be too many stories in Love Actually, but it's a small gaffe. Love Actually is a refreshing, good old fashioned, warm and gushy movie that takes your mind off the bad things for the holiday season, and Curtis should feel confident about his directing debut.
A breath of fresh air in a season full of downer dramas and horror films, Love Actually allows you to sit back and enjoy the romantic, comical and bittersweet consequences of being under Cupid's spell.