At least three disturbing lessons about love.
December 7, 2013 4:55 PM   Subscribe

So take the film on its own titular terms. What does Love Actually tell us about love, actually? Well, I think it tells us a number of things, most of them wrong and a few of them appalling. Now, anyone who goes to the cineplex with any regularity knows that the last decade has seen more than its share of bad romantic comedies. But Love Actually is exceptional in that it is not merely, like so many other entries in the genre, unromantic. Rather, it is emphatically, almost shockingly, anti-romantic. Love Actually Is the Least Romantic Film of All Time
posted by davidjmcgee (105 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
The problem is that they decided to portray creeps as romantic leads.

I can think of other stories where a taciturn quasi-stalker fixates on the girl, never mind that in real life a restraining order is, well, in order. See:

Back to the Future
Twilight

Actually I don't really think I need to go on.
posted by tooloudinhere at 5:05 PM on December 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


That said, Rickman’s infidelity was limited to buying his assistant an inappropriate gift. He hasn’t slept with her or even kissed her, to the best of our knowledge.


This line made me laugh: "What what, he didnt do anything, technically!" The writer sounds like great husband material.
posted by discopolo at 5:06 PM on December 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


That said, Rickman’s infidelity was limited to buying his assistant an inappropriate gift.

I actually thought that the point of not saying whether he'd slept with her was a way of saying that the deed mattered less than the fall from marital grace.
posted by fatbird at 5:09 PM on December 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I actually thought that the point of not saying whether he'd slept with her was a way of saying that the deed mattered less than the fall from marital grace.

I thought it sounded like the author was saying Emma Thompson's character was overreacting.
posted by discopolo at 5:13 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


First, that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind. Second, that the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say “I love you”—preferably with some grand gesture—and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss.

Reviewer, meet romantic comedy. Romantic comedy, meet reviewer.

Something tells me you two are going to get on great.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:13 PM on December 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Most important lesson: People who look to romantic comedies for lessons about love are dumb.
posted by biffa at 5:23 PM on December 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


between a graphic designer (Laura Linney) and the colleague (Rodrigo Santoro) on whom she’s had a longstanding crush ... There are other subsidiary relationships, but they serve primarily as foils (Rickman’s sexually predatory assistant; Linney’s needy, institutionalized brother)

Congratulations, dear critic, for so fundamentally misunderstanding the Linney segments that you get this exactly backwards.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:30 PM on December 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


I had forgotten that this was the movie with the porn body-doubles who meet at work. I wish the movie had just been about them (it would make a good short at least) because that's a great premise.

The rest is just an incoherent blur that I vaguely recall not caring about. Like the author, I am a little confused at the love people have for it. Is it love for particular actors (lots of good ones were in this)? The accents? I don't know.

The author lists several romantic comedies he has seen, so I do think he is familiar with (but not a fan of) the genre.

As romantic semi-Christmas-y movies go, I much prefer While You Were Sleeping.
posted by emjaybee at 5:33 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Discopolo, I didn't get that feeling at all- he calls them "easily the most credible and fully realized of the film" (which I agree with). I felt like he was saying either forgiveness or not would be understandable, but the film doesn't care about the process of getting to either.
posted by insufficient data at 5:36 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I first saw this in cattle class on a plane from Delhi - Amsterdam and Martin Freeman wasn't in that version at all, KLM completely excised that storyline, I assume ad unfit for family viewing. I only found put he was in it when my boss tried to describe who I reminded her of and it was his character in Love, Actually.
posted by biffa at 5:45 PM on December 7, 2013


Also, I don't think it's wrong or stupid to point out implications in movies, even if they're accepted standards in the genre. (You can even enjoy the genre while recognizing that it's bothersome.) I agree that the stuff he points out in Love Actually is common to a lot of romantic comedies, so it's not a particularly ground-breaking article. Still, I don't think it's inherently a waste of time.

But then, I've always been annoyed by the portrayal of folks getting together as the end of the story, not the beginning. So.

(I get so annoyed at this movie, though, because it has every romantic comedy trope that I hate- and I hate a lot of them- and yet I still find myself emotionally moved at some points. Stop making me feel things against my will, movies! Bill Nighy is great, though.)
posted by insufficient data at 5:48 PM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I loved the movie and the play the CD in my car around this time of year. Best holiday rom com ever? No. Entertaining with sweet, touching and painful moments (Emma opening her xmas present) ? Yes.

Will I watch it again? Yes. It is a silly movie. That is all it is.
posted by cairnoflore at 5:50 PM on December 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Suggest the author takes someone able to read shorthand, implications, subtext next time to provide the required hand holding they apparently didn't get from a not very complicated film.
posted by Artw at 5:52 PM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seems like most of his complaints can be addressed by reading The Hairpin's anniversary fanfic. (Daniel & Sam being my particular favorite.) posted by rewil at 6:00 PM on December 7, 2013 [25 favorites]


Pretty sure Colin ends up catching some kind Of disease.
posted by Artw at 6:03 PM on December 7, 2013


Also, I don't think it's wrong or stupid to point out implications in movies

Implications for the real world would imply that Hollywood screenwriters have some personal connection to the real world, or are in any other way representative of it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:12 PM on December 7, 2013


I remember reading this a few days ago and concluding that he was being too hard on the movie. (And also that he doesn't really understand the uses to which filmmakers put the cinematic language of cuts and transitions. Like The Sixth Sense, this is a film that bends and stretches that language to achieve a particular effect.)

There are ten different stories going around in this movie for god's sake. If we spent enough time to fully flesh each of them out a) it would be a couple years long and b) it would fail utterly as romantic comedy in which the point is usually to depict a kind of stylized reality in which romance is heightened. All the stories in Love Actually in fact take place at different points all along the spectrum from gritty drama (Thompson and Rickman) to absurd farce (America really is just like a beer commercial!). The fact that they can even keep all that in one movie without the whole thing blowing up is amazing by itself.

Overall, you can argue the implications of some of these storylines, and I'm not saying it's perfect. But what the movie is offering us is not a realistic view of what relations between the sexes are like. It's offering us a bunch of love stories with just the good parts. You kind of have to go along with it and take for granted the huge swaths that it skips over.

Basically, just because something isn't shown happening in complete detail on the screen doesn't mean it isn't happening. That's really been sort of a fundamental premise of cinema for more than a century and it's kind of late to be bringing it up now. What he's done here is akin to slamming Citizen Kane because we never see anybody taking a huge shit - which would eventually lead to septic shock and death. Welles was really doing his audience a huge disservice there.
posted by Naberius at 6:16 PM on December 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


The Internet: never failing to ruin my only personal Christmas tradition.
posted by Kitteh at 6:16 PM on December 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Most important lesson: People who look to romantic comedies for lessons about love are dumb.

I agree. I don't think anyone looks to them for lessons either. Women look to them for hope, because the reality of relationships are way too grim or you have to work really hard to stay positive about the disappointment if you don't keep expectations really low.

Also, Colin Firth, because "that man knows how to wear a sweater."
posted by discopolo at 6:21 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The best part of the movie is the bit at the beginning where we see people reuniting at the airport arrivals lounge.

As someone who has spent a fair amount of time at the international arrival lounge at SFO, that part always makes me tear up a little (as does an ancient SNL film of the same thing set to "Homeward Bound" by Simon & Garfunkel).

It's weird to watch Andrew Lincoln cleaned up and gunless. Carl would not approve.

The new time travelly one (also with Bill Nighy) looks dreadful.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:31 PM on December 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Somewhat of a rebuttal.
posted by kyrademon at 6:44 PM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes you hate a piece of mass culture because everyone has really bad taste. But sometimes you hate it because you're kind of a creep yourself. If you've never met someone and found yourself almost hopelessly in love with them against your own better judgement then, well, what can I tell you? Life is more random and fascinating for some of us I guess.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:47 PM on December 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Was it Johnny Gage? I bet it was Johnny Gage.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:03 PM on December 7, 2013


Love Actually Is the Least Romantic Film of All Time

Writing things like that makes me want to strap him to a chair, Clockwork Orange style, and force him to watch Grave of the Fireflies, Bloodsucking Freaks, Red Zone Cuba, The Human Centipede, and assortment of other assaults on the limbic system, patience and comprehension, or just good taste until he admits that at least one of them is less romantic than _Love Actually_.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:08 PM on December 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


I find romantic comedy important because the desire for romance really is a fundamental impulse, but it isn't always a good impulse to act on in the real world. I know lots of people who do similarly because they're in committed relationships which sometimes lack that new romance buzz but are otherwise good relationships. I just indulge so deter stupid decisions.

Realism is good to a point, but at some point every genre requires some suspension of disbelief. Asgard isn't real, animals and cars and toys can't talk, and in real life acting like you're in a romantic comedy is usually creepy or at least weird. In real life, behaving like Thor would also be undesirable. Still fun in the movies.
posted by Sequence at 7:36 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that Love Actually is intended to be a romantic movie. Romantic love is only one facet of love. In this movie, we see fraternal love, love between best friends, love between parent and child, puppy love, last disguised as love, forbidden love, jealousy, infidelity, the ache of lost love, etc. There are ten stories but even within these stories there are other facets of love revealed. Love, actually, is all around us but we don't always notice it because it doesn't exclusively take the firm of grand hopeless gestures that occasionally pay off and more often don't.

So, yes, it's frequently not a romantic movie - maybe even not primarily a romantic movie - but that's exactly the point.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:42 PM on December 7, 2013 [36 favorites]


I adore Colin Firth and British romantic comedies, and I found his plot creepy for exactly the reasons the article mentions.
posted by nev at 8:21 PM on December 7, 2013


FWIW, the movie gets me every single time at the end. The montage of pure joy and celebration of what makes us human as one of the most beautiful songs ever written ("God Only Knows") swells in the background.

I get goosebumps thinking about it. I cry like a baby every time I watch it.
posted by zooropa at 8:40 PM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oops. One more thing I love about the movie: Bill Nighy.

"Hi kids. Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!"

*giggle*
posted by zooropa at 8:42 PM on December 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


On the one hand, I cannot argue with his main point that all of this love is about hormones with people that everyone has barely or never spoken to and the relationships aren't developed much at all. That is true enough. On the other hand, somehow most of these couples or non-couples move me on some level or another ANYWAY. However that's happened, I did not watch this movie and have a rage quit.

Alyssa Rosenberg has a point about Sarah's character having dug her own grave, so to speak. On the other hand, it sounds like at any second she might have to talk her brother down from killing herself. If you had that anvil hanging over your head constantly, how differently would you act? Would you be able to say that now isn't a good time to talk if THAT might happen during the course of any conversation? Think of the guilt if he kills himself because she didn't answer the phone for five minutes because she was in the shower! They are alone in the world, she can't pass this off to some other family member. It's all on her.

I relate way too well to that character.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:54 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Red Zone Cuba

True, the romance does die off somewhat after the sweltering scene where the convict partakes of the drifters' baked beans. I'd still rank it higher than Love Actually, though, even with the Bill Nighy save.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 PM on December 7, 2013


Suggest the author takes someone able to read shorthand, implications, subtext next time to provide the required hand holding they apparently didn't get from a not very complicated film.

Yeah, definitely this. It's totally bizarre how much he complains about not being shown things explicitly. Especially this bit:

Linney finally gets her big opportunity after an office party, luring him back to her apartment to have sex. (Again, the idea that they might actually talk first—perhaps over a glass of wine?—is foreign to the movie’s whole conception of how love progresses.)

It's made pretty clear that those two have worked together for a couple years, know each other well, and have plenty of unresolved sexual tension. Also, I don't know how one can complain that these two exemplify a naive Hollywood conception of how love progresses, given that they *don't* actually end up together. Shouldn't they count as a counterexample?

Also, I think it's implied that Alan Rickman does sleep with his assistant. There's that shot of her in her underwear, trying on the necklace--as if Rickman has just been there. And why on earth does this guy think the movie's most powerful scene is when Thompson confronts Rickman? The most powerful scene is the one before that, when she receives the CDs and realizes what's going on but nonetheless has to keep it together for the kids. Maybe if he'd noticed the relationship between Thompson and her kids he'd realize that the last bit at the airport does resolve that story--clearly she has decided to put her kids before herself and keep the family together (at least this time).

It's certainly not the deepest movie of all time or anything, but there's a lot more depth than this guy picked up on.
posted by equalpants at 10:05 PM on December 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


Like all romantic comedies, Love Actually hates women (well, as much as you can ascribe hate to any inanimate entity). equalpants, has it right in that the most powerful scene in the movie is Thompson's reaction to the CD, the view of her simply dying a little inside. But like most romantic comedies, it celebrates stalkers, helping to convince people that just maybe, if they make a grand romantic gesture, the person they think is their soul mate will take them back. In real life, this leads to abusive exes shooting their ex wives and children, but in the movies, people get to live happily ever after. Just like in most action movies, no one ever ends up with PTSD and Bruce Willis can walk away from any injury.

Is it the most anti-romantic of the romantic comedies? I haven't seen enough to say one way or another. But, like most movies, just assume everyone is a pod person and it makes a great deal more sense. In fact, it gets few points for having one person who hasn't had a duplicate made of her yet.
posted by Hactar at 10:14 PM on December 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah yeah. We know. We know. That thing you like sucks. Whatever man. What. Ever.
posted by jph at 10:33 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every time I watch this moving, I think, "BUT THIS RELATIONSHIP WILL NEVER LAST! THEY BARELY KNOW EACH OTHER!" and thus agree with the article, but... I still really enjoy the film and continue to watch it at least once a year.
posted by retrograde at 11:01 PM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am fairly meh about all the other storylines, but Emma Thompson's scene with the Joni Mitchell CD makes me cry every time. I'm not sure if it just hits waaaaaaay too close to home, or it's all about Emma Thompson's amazingness. But the whole movie is worth that scene.

I've always been confused/turned off by the Keira Knightley storyline. Who the fuck would leave Chiwetel Ejiofor for some halfassed Gap model with a sharpie and an endless supply of posterboard?
posted by Sara C. at 11:49 PM on December 7, 2013 [6 favorites]




The movie is ruined by having Tony Blair in it.
posted by colie at 1:18 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well Tony Blair has allegedly [psssssp psssssp pssssssp] with Wendy Deng Murdoch, so there is that.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:10 AM on December 8, 2013


Sara C., every time I think that Buzzfeed can't get any stupider it does something like this and...completely redeems itself.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:50 AM on December 8, 2013


I've always been confused/turned off by the Keira Knightley storyline. Who the fuck would leave Chiwetel Ejiofor for some halfassed Gap model with a sharpie and an endless supply of posterboard?

She didnt leave him, did she? She just seemed flattered.
posted by discopolo at 3:54 AM on December 8, 2013


The idea that because people in a movie do something, that means it's what the movie is saying people should do, is bizarre to me. The point of including the Linney story is not that it's not worth her trying to work out the romance around her obligations to her brother. The point is that love can work in many directions, and in that case, it's a profound love for her brother that she's twisted into such an overwhelming sense of obligation that it limits her life. It's a sad story. If you interpret that story as "the movie is saying that Laura Linney is awesomely loving because she blows off her romance," you have missed the point so much that the point is a dot to you. (Wait. Never mind.)

Likewise, saying "Rickman's character only buys an extravagant, traditionally romantic gift for his assistant with the obvious intention of instigating a personal relationship with her; it's not like he KISSED her" is insanely reductive, and I don't think it shows any comprehension of what makes people feel betrayed and insecure. The reason some people think Thompson and Rickman will make it and some don't is that the movie isn't telling you; that is a story *exactly* about the fact that she's having to go forward, presumably working on the marriage but with no guarantee that what's broken can be fixed.

I don't disagree with folks who observe that there are entirely too many romances between men and women who work for them, and so forth. But these particular complaints -- as well as the willful misreading of the Andrew Lincoln story, which does not at all literally say he's never spoken to her, but only that he's cold to her and ignores her when they're around each other -- really seem unfair to me. I'm fine with people thinking the movie sucks, but these are exceptionally bad arguments.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:34 AM on December 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that, as far as genre films go, this one is not considered a rom-com. It's more correctly lumped in with Holiday movies.

It's a bit unfair to criticize a genre film for being a genre film. Really, is it a good or bad example of its genre is the central critique. It's even more unfair to critique a genre film for being a bad example of a genre it probably isn't an example of.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:51 AM on December 8, 2013


for years people have been telling me that THIS movie different. and so is About Time that just came out. girls and guys tell me i just HAVE to see it.

i posted this as my answer on fb after one friend went on how about amazing About Time is:

"is it about cute people falling in love after several obstacles that may keep them apart (probably including misunderstandings and at least one transportation issue like a plane or car malfunction) and then it all works out just when they've thought they would never love again and they get married and live adorably and happily ever after?"

from what i can tell this is the plot if Love Actually and About Time, just like any other romantic comedy so I've never understood why it's supposedly different and/or better and no one can ever really tell me other than i just have to watch it.
posted by sio42 at 6:13 AM on December 8, 2013


Well, for one thing, Love Actually has somewhere between 6 and 8 intertwined stories in it, so it doesn't have one plot. So...no, that's not it. Maybe you should just invest the two hours and get it over with?

I really adore this movie specifically because pretty much all the characters are so imperfect. They're stupid and mean and grieving and stuck in crappy situations (of their own making and otherwise) and bad timing and occasionally awful writing. It feels a lot like people acting like people (and most people spend a lot of their lives at work, so that actually struck me as realistic if problematic anyway), it's just that they're all more attractive than most normal people, and they live in nicer places.

It's also a little bit of a love letter to London at Christmas and I think that's sweet.

There is a lot wrong there, but this article seemed to go for willful misunderstanding rather than addressing any of the actual interesting things that are wrong with it. Or right.

There has certainly never been a nativity play subplot as brilliant as this one. First lobster!
posted by Lyn Never at 8:32 AM on December 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


discopolo, you're right, she doesn't leave him.

Still, really dissatisfying story.

Girl marries REALLY AMAZING GUY in the sweetest wedding ceremony ever.

Weirdo creep WHO IS HER HUSBAND'S BEST FRIEND is so obsessed with her that he ruins their wedding video AND sulks about this the whole reception.

And then... mostly just sharpies?

I think they were just desperate to shove Keira Knightley in there somewhere. Which is especially weird since I'm pretty sure she was about 16 when this movie was made.

I'm also a little unclear how someone in a movie full of people wearing turtlenecks managed to be almost completely costumed in crop tops. She looks cold the entire movie.

Meanwhile Chiwetel Ejiofor gets like 20 seconds of screen time.
posted by Sara C. at 8:44 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


At the time Lincoln had been a popular lead character in one of the most popular UK TV shows of the late 90s (This Life) and was the lead in another popular UK TV show (Teachers), whereas Ejiofor had only just broken out with an indie film role.
posted by biffa at 9:10 AM on December 8, 2013


I don't know, guys. I LOVE romantic comedies. I love the meet cutes and the swelling music and even the silly "Oh, we're on roller skates now for some reason!" moments.

But I can't get behind Love Actually. The way it portrays women is just plain malicious.

Any woman who has something going on in her head gets cast aside like day-old bread. The Emma T character and the Laura L character are the only ladies in the movie who seem to care about anything other than snagging a man. Emma has a sense of humor, a family, a history. Laura has a feeling of profound obligation to her brother, plus she has work that matters to her. What happens to them? They don't get the guy, they don't get the happy ending.

The women worth loving are the ones who bring you hot cups of tea, show you their hot young bodies, and keep their mouths pretty much shut. I mean, have you counted the number of tea-bringing-equals-true-love scenes in this movie?

And when the Prime Minister's tea bringer gets sexually harassed by another powerful man? She's basically fired and allowed to think it's her fault.

The most genuine relationships in the movie don't even feature a woman. Not that I have a problem with touching father-son or manager-musician scenes, but when you look at them in the context of the whole movie, you really start to see what's lacking in the male-female relationships.

I just find all that awfully hard to ignore, even if the dialogue is snappy and the actors are cute.
posted by Mender at 9:14 AM on December 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


Oh, man.

I never realized that.

So true, and possibly colors my feelings about the movie going forward.

The entire movie, really, is about men falling in love with their servants.
posted by Sara C. at 9:23 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only non-stupid subplot that doesn't fit that theme is widower Liam Neeson and the little boy.
posted by Sara C. at 9:25 AM on December 8, 2013


Wait, I take back the "non-stupid" qualifier, since the Wisconsin dude is a cater-waiter. So, a servant in his own right, trying to figure out how to get a woman if all the higher status dudes are poaching the female servants.

Keira Knightley offers Bland Gap Model pie, though I think he doesn't take it.

The naked actor stand-ins don't fit into this model, though. Though I'm less inclined to see their subplot as stupid, just kind of lost in the shuffle.
posted by Sara C. at 9:27 AM on December 8, 2013


I am not convinced you are appreciating the complex symbology of tea and of tea bringing in its cultural context here.
posted by biffa at 9:35 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, Mender has a great point.

The two biggest Rom Com subplots, where there's a Meet Cute and the guy realizes he really wants this woman so he pulls a Big Stunt in order to get her, both center around men falling in love with their servants. Literally.

The tea thing is incidental, actually. There are probably examples of people making each other tea throughout the movie. But it's straight up 100% true that the two central romantic love stories are about men falling in love with their servants. Hugh Grant is the Prime Minister who falls in love with his personal assistant. Colin Firth is the novelist who falls in love with the immigrant cleaning lady whose language he doesn't even speak.

It is a stretch, though, to find that dynamic in every other subplot. Though it's definitely there in Alan Rickman's story.
posted by Sara C. at 9:55 AM on December 8, 2013


Like Mender I loooove romantic comedies and forgive A LOT, but I'm with the haters on Love, Actually. Sitting in the theatre I was like, the only thing that is going to redeem the sleazy misogyny of this movie is when the dumpy guy obsessed with supermodels gets to the States, and he falls for a dumpy American girl and they each think the other is SO HOT because of the accents. Silly me.

The New York Times review, and similar articles in Salon and the Guardian cover this ground too.
posted by Erasmouse at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was somewhat along for the ride on the Wisconsin thing, because people in the US (especially off the coasts) are pretty fascinated with Britain. And the guy's not super bad looking or anything, and yeah, alcohol, and cold nights, and not much else to do.

And the two girls he meets initially at the bar are cute, but not really way out of his league or anything.

It was where they introduced the threesome, and later foursome, aspect that they lost me on that particular storyline.

It's probably pretty easy for a ginger named Colin with a cute British accent to get laid in Wisconsin. But the Penthouse Forum aspect of the whole thing was stupid.

You know you're watching a fine specimen of cinema when January Jones seems like a normal and approachable example of a salt of the earth human being. (Another case where, despite the fact that Jones was not yet famous, WTF why would you pick that tramp stamp Britney Spears wannabe over her?)
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This for the win: It's weird to watch Andrew Lincoln cleaned up and gunless. Carl would not approve.

Upon re-watching it last Christmas, I had the extremely odd experience of suddenly not quite believing Lincoln's own native British accent.

The relationship between Bill Nighy's pop star and his manager is the one that gets me every time.
posted by hush at 11:13 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love that NYT review, Erasmouse. Great dig at the end: " Instead, ''Love Actually'' is a patchwork of contrived naughtiness and forced pathos, ending as it began, with hugging and kissing at the airport (where returning passengers are perhaps expressing their relief at being delivered from an in-flight movie like this one)." I think it's right on pointing out the banal sentiments served up.
posted by feste at 11:34 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't hate Love Actually when I saw it, but it did leave me feeling kind of sad, and not in a good way. I thought the article did a good job of articulating why that was.

I did enjoy Martin Freeman and that guy who goes to the US, probably because their storylines were just too absurd to take seriously.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:48 AM on December 8, 2013


Whereas the prime minister and the tea lady shagging was cinema verite?
posted by biffa at 1:38 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know you're watching a fine specimen of cinema when January Jones seems like a normal and approachable example of a salt of the earth human being. (Another case where, despite the fact that Jones was not yet famous, WTF why would you pick that tramp stamp Britney Spears wannabe over her?)

Seriously, January Jones and Elisha Cuthbert, and then Denise Richards walks in and SHE's the hot one?

January Jones and Elisha Cuthbert are on my Lady Crush List, Not That I'm Gay Or Bi Or Anything, Blond Edition.
posted by sweetkid at 1:54 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I totally forgot they were the other two girls. That kind of makes sense, because at the time Denise Richards was kind of a sex symbol, and definitely more famous than Elisha Cuthbert. And January Jones was a nobody.

Wow, I might take back my whole assessment of that subplot. Because all three of them are super out of that guy's league. In my memory it was two corn-fed looking randos and January Jones. Whereas in fact I think January Jones was the corn-fed rando in that scenario.
posted by Sara C. at 2:00 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, she's from South Dakota and was a nobody at the time. I remember she does the same thing in Love Actually as she does as Betty Draper, where she closes her eyes for a beat when she's talking, especially when she's being flirty.
posted by sweetkid at 2:13 PM on December 8, 2013


biffa, I knew someone would have that reaction, but the trip to Wisconsin and the porn doubles were kind of like maybe Peanuts compared to the other stories' Mrs Worth.

In my head the three girls in Wisconsin were figments of the guy's imagination.

The other stories (except the two porn understudies) had elements of attempting to be realistic, which made their unrealism more frustrating to me.
posted by maggiemaggie at 3:02 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Love Actually is rubbish.
posted by crossoverman at 3:19 PM on December 8, 2013


maggiemaggie, would it help if you imagine that Hugh Grant's entire storyline is about his fantasy of rescuing the nubile tea girl from the US president, then giving her what for?

Finally crossoverman, something we can all agree on, but from your link:

"Jamie (Colin Firth), a writer cuckolded by his own brother, retreats to a villa in the South of France and falls for his Portuguese housekeeper, Aurelia, who speaks no English and who obligingly strips down to her underwear to rescue manuscript pages that have blown into the lake.”

The Portuguese are England's oldest allies you know.
posted by biffa at 3:32 PM on December 8, 2013


Seriously, January Jones and Elisha Cuthbert, and then Denise Richards walks in and SHE's the hot one?

I've never, not once, understood the Denise Richards thing.
posted by crossoverman at 3:34 PM on December 8, 2013


I do actually think the tone issue is a major problem with the film.

On the one hand, you've got Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, along with the Liam Neeson thing and the little boy with puppy love. That's all clearly being played somewhat straight and could make its own quirky little British indie dramedy.

Then you've got the two RomCom plots, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. These are different in tone from the Thompson/Rickman/Neeson thing, and fit squarely in the genre of Romantic Comedy, with meet cutes and big climactic Will He Get The Girl set pieces.

Then there are a couple of farces: the stand-ins and Wisconsin. These can't be taken seriously on any level. I think the bit with Rowan Atkinson (AKA my absolute least favorite "why is this even in the movie" part) falls into this category as well.

Then we take it back down with Laura Linney's story, which plays as hard drama. I'm always torn, watching the movie, whether to feel bad for Laura Linney (as you would in a drama about a woman who can't live her life due to needing to care for her severely disabled brother), or to feel like she needs to buck up and fucking GET LAID OMG*, which is the direction all the rest of the sweet, upbeat, and even farcical storylines pull me in.

Last of all, you've got the Keira Knightley storyline, which is just so bad you can't really slot it into any of the above categories.

*I actually think it would have worked nicely if she later meets up with the Wisconsin guy and they bang madly in a closet and never see each other again.
posted by Sara C. at 3:36 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do men keep trying to take things away from women? Lots of women like Love, Actually. Lots of women like romantic comedies. Sexism is when men put on an air of authority and tell women that women don't know what they like, and that what they like is wrong. This guy thinks he can cluelessly barge in and say that what he thinks about a movie is how people should really feel about it, but he doesn't seem to know the first thing about how people and especially women really experience this movie.
posted by Nomyte at 4:09 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a woman and I experienced the movie almost exactly as the author did.
posted by maggiemaggie at 4:17 PM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


So did I. Please don't be concerned for me, Nomyte. I can figure out I didn't like it without a man influencing me.
posted by feste at 4:25 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a woman and I loved the movie. I try not to read too much into silly movies like this. I took the movie for what it was: a holiday flick filled with silly relationship situations. Some funny, some sad, some stupid.

The soundtrack is a happy, joyful holiday listen and I have made copies for my friends. No one has complained about the music being stupid or sexiest. They have just enjoyed it.
posted by cairnoflore at 4:30 PM on December 8, 2013


I'm a woman and I experienced the movie almost exactly as the author did.

Me too. I enjoyed the Wisconsin plot and the Martin Freeman one because they were ridiculous, but agreed with Sara C. that the tone of the movie is all over the place. I also found the Keira Knightley storyline kind of appalling - what's so cute about a man holding up signs about how much he loves his best friend's new wife?

Also, like the author of this piece I never understood why the Laura Linney storyline was OMG ruined by her brother's phone call. They couldn't just do this another time?

This guy thinks he can cluelessly barge in and say that what he thinks about a movie is how people should really feel about it, but he doesn't seem to know the first thing about how people and especially women really experience this movie.


I feel like it's kind of sexist to say a man can't enjoy a romantic comedy or that all women experience a movie in the exact same way.
posted by sweetkid at 4:35 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lots of women like Love, Actually. Lots of women like romantic comedies.

Love Actually isn't a romantic comedy.
posted by crossoverman at 5:51 PM on December 8, 2013


Man here who loves the movie and watches it every year around this time.

Also, if you've ever watched the deleted scenes, you'll know why editors exist. The wee motherless mongrel storyline included scenes of him practicing gymnastics and culminated in him evading airport security using all sorts of gymnast moves. It was ridiculous.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:01 PM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, as a woman, does this mean I'm not allowed to disparage your average big dumb action movie for fear of "taking something away from men"?

Granted, I somewhat agree, a lot of the hate for romcoms is about our tendency to shit all over anything feminine.

But, as much as I enjoy it, Love Actually has a lot of problems, and many of the author's critiques are perfectly valid.

I'm much more OK with someone saying, "Silly movie is ill-conceived, silly" than someone saying, "Love Actually sucks because it's a romantic comedy, and we all know that romantic comedies are lame."
posted by Sara C. at 7:04 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm also amazed that nobody has brought up in this thread so far the fact that Colin Firth still writes novels on a typewriter, in 2003.

I've spent far too much time wondering whether:

- The typewriter is a contrivance in the non-naturalist set piece plot formula of the Romantic Comedy genre, which is fitting for Firth's particular storyline,

- The typewriter is an artifact from a script that was originally written in like 1990 (in other words, just how long was this movie in "development hell", anyway?),

or

- The typewriter represents how incredibly out of touch with normal life Richard Curtis is.

Thoughts?
posted by Sara C. at 7:09 PM on December 8, 2013


I think it could be all of those.
posted by sweetkid at 7:36 PM on December 8, 2013


I thought the points were well made, but I still enjoy watching Love, Actually every Christmas, along with The Nightmare Before Christmas, Bones Christmas episodes, and possibly now adding in Rare Exports to the list. I think it fits in just fine with them. It's a weird movie. I like that about it.

(Although I do like anti-romcoms as much as romcoms, I'm not sure this one fits the bill as well as 500 days of summer did.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:39 PM on December 8, 2013


Thoughts?

Crusty, old Harlan Ellison only uses a typewriter. The rather less crusty and younger Neal Stephenson has mentioned writing out his doorstoppers in longhand, on paper. Also, lots of people fetishize typewriters. There exist clubs and sites for typewriter enthusiasts. An author laboring over a typewriter is a popular cliche that delivers a lot of information quickly. You could object to the use of the cliche, but you can't say it doesn't exist or isn't meaningful. It's not like he's shown running off copies on a hectograph or something.
posted by Nomyte at 7:48 PM on December 8, 2013


Crusty, old Harlan Ellison only uses a typewriter.

Crusty old Harlan Ellison is like eleventy umptinillion years old.

In Love Actually, Colin Firth is, what, 35? 40?

Thus my point.

Also, lots of people fetishize typewriters. There exist clubs and sites for typewriter enthusiasts.

Sure, but no professional writer writes a novel on a typewriter anymore, and certainly didn't in 2003, either. How is Colin Firth going to submit this manuscript to his editor? What happens if he spills coffee on it, or there's a fire, or it gets lost in the mail? If the story took place in 1983 it would be one thing, but nobody uses typewriters for this sort of writing anymore, even luddites with romantic notions. I used to write middle school book reports on my grandfather's Word Processor circa 1993, and that was considered kind of old school (vs. using a PC).

An author laboring over a typewriter is a popular cliche that delivers a lot of information quickly.

Have you actually seen the movie we're talking about?
posted by Sara C. at 8:39 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is Colin Firth going to submit this manuscript to his editor?

Well for this particular thing, I was working in publishing in 2003 (first real job ever sorta thing) and people did mail in manuscripts, like a giant sheaf of paper. Even then I was like "wha? ever hearda email?" though.
posted by sweetkid at 8:53 PM on December 8, 2013


Yes, but I think those people were at least saving digitally, right? Just mailing in printed out copies? Because they had computers, but didn't have the internet? Right?
posted by Sara C. at 9:03 PM on December 8, 2013


I felt like it was mostly about Colin firths character being a snotty fuss budget
posted by sweetkid at 9:09 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I felt like it was mostly to give them a reason to get naked.

But also yes Colin Firth's character really is am impossible prick in this movie.

I also kind of hate how he goes home to his family for Christmas, walks in the door laden down with presents, and is like BYEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Why even go? Is he such a luddite that he can't call and say he can't make it this year?

Did he ride to Portugal on his horse?
posted by Sara C. at 9:12 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a woman and I loved the movie. I try not to read too much into silly movies like this. I took the movie for what it was: a holiday flick filled with silly relationship situations. Some funny, some sad, some stupid.

I'm not a woman, but I think the "sad" and "stupid" parts are why the movie actually works, and lives on 10 years later. It has one bit that's probably going to reflect a little bit on your, or one of your friend's lives right now. It tells multiple stories, and it has multiple lessons, and they're blessedly unhamfisted. It has "TRUE LOVE", it has lust, it has growing apart, it has kids and a dog. It's a modern Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter. Oh, and it has a Christmas Lobster.
posted by DigDoug at 4:17 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't stand Love Actually and never understood why it is so well loved.

Conversely, I never understand why Playing by Heart, which is a stunning awesome amazing ensemble multiple story lines with romance, comedy, and tragedy, star studded (seriously, Angelina Jolie, Ryan Phillippe, Sean Connery, Jon Stewart, Gillian Anderson, etc) film is so obscure. Watch it people! Everybody should watch it!
posted by Salamandrous at 7:27 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another thing that's annoying about the Colin Firth storyline. (Or maybe this just reveals something about British attitudes towards foreigners?)

HOLY SHIT DUDE IT'S FUCKING PORTUGUESE, NOT !KWI

You could go to the goddamn library and pick up a Portuguese phrasebook and learn how to say hi or thank you or "you're really attractive" or SOMETHING. They've already demonstrated that he speaks French, and while Portuguese is a little out of left field in terms of Romance languages, it's the work of about ten minutes to pick up a few basic phrases.

It drives me crazy that he's willing to ogle her in her underwear but not willing to put in ANY work towards figuring out how to talk to her. Until he decides to marry her? Stupid.

OK, I'm going to stop now.
posted by Sara C. at 9:57 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am now imagining a parallel universe AskMetafilter with Human Relations questions exclusively asked by characters from Love Actually.
posted by Sara C. at 10:22 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


sio42: About Time is an interesting twist on the romcom, not just because of the main character's attempts to fix the "several obstacles that may keep them apart". It goes on long after they get married and sad/bad things happen that he can't fix and has to deal with. Plus it has Bill Nighy and Domhnall Gleason.
posted by soelo at 12:31 PM on December 9, 2013


Yes, About Time - the film in which all the men in one family can time travel, but none of the women can. Richard Curtis - making romantic comedies for women but treating them like second-class citizens.
posted by crossoverman at 2:54 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Isn't Rachel McAdams essentially playing the same character in About Time as The Time Traveler's Wife (I read the book but was annoyed enough that I passed on the movie).
posted by sweetkid at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2013


Many of the critiques he makes relate to differences in dating and relationship styles between the US and the British, at least as of ten or fifteen years ago (which is when this movie was made). The stereotypes of dating at the time said that US people would date many people at a time with the stated purpose of finding a suitable partner. These dates would be explicitly dates with the purpose of hanging out together one on one to get to know each other and talking to decide whether or not to become a couple, probably with escalating levels of physicality as the number of dates progressed. Whereas in the UK, people would dance around in each other's orbits, maybe run into each other in groups of friends and then drunkenly hook up one night (plausible deniability if it didn't work out and all) and if that all worked out they were now suddenly in a monogamous relationship. So yes, much less talking about feelings beforehand and much more subtle non-verbal cues and going on gut feelings. Which is pretty much what this piece's author is complaining about. I would argue it's not so much a valid critique as a cultural misunderstanding.

Love Actually is of course a British romantic comedy and I don't think it's a coincidence that the other movies he compares it to are exclusively American, with the exception of Notting Hill which revolves around the many differences in dating culture by contrasting the English male with the US female. Not mentioned is Four Weddings and a Funeral, with the similar cross-pond romantic drama, also including the theme of characters living the relationship very much in their heads without really talking about anything explicitly. Of course, these three movies are all written by the same guy, but I would argue there's a reason why he is the most successful British rom com writer.

I'd like to note that I am not defending either style of dating or beginning relationships and I think there's problems with both methods (both practical and ideological problems). But I also think that Love Actually was not so much trying to describe how the screenwriter thought romance should work but rather how it actually did work for him and his compatriots at the time. Love Actually was generally well received in Britain whereas it received mixed reviews in the States, unsurprising as the story would have more plausibly resonated more with the British.

tl;dr: Different sets of life experiences may lead to different stories portrayed on screen which will seem unrealistic to other people with other sets of life experiences.
posted by mosessis at 7:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


tl;dr: Different sets of life experiences may lead to different stories portrayed on screen which will seem unrealistic to other people with other sets of life experiences.

Right, yes, exactly. But there's people all over the world who think that Love Actually is crap.
posted by crossoverman at 1:51 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, none of the problems with the movie have anything to do with different dating styles in Britain vs. the US.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


with the exception of Notting Hill which revolves around the many differences in dating culture by contrasting the English male with the US female.

Notting Hill
was more about an unknown dude dating a Julia Roberts-level celebrity.
posted by sweetkid at 2:27 PM on December 10, 2013


No Actually
posted by crossoverman at 7:46 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you come from London, all of Richard Curtis is intolerable.
posted by colie at 3:24 AM on December 11, 2013


Yeah, I get that Richard Curtis' London is, like, any American RomCom's version of New York. But, not being British, and having been to London once for a week when I was ~12, I don't care. I will eat that shit right up just like every obnoxious "PLEASE DIRECT ME TO THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER SKATING RINK" tourist in NYC.

That said, I have never seen Notting Hill, which I'm sure I would find intolerable on various levels.
posted by Sara C. at 9:58 AM on December 11, 2013


By the way that "No Actually" thing is BRILLIANT.
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Christopher Orr comes back swinging! Love Actually: Still Awful.

I'm not a woman, but I think the "sad" and "stupid" parts are why the movie actually works, and lives on 10 years later. It has one bit that's probably going to reflect a little bit on your, or one of your friend's lives right now. It tells multiple stories, and it has multiple lessons,

My issue with the movie is that the middle-aged men are in a movie where they are Prime Ministers and Rock Stars and get handed subservient young women and supermodels, and the sad tragic 'realistic' parts are reserved for the middle-aged women. I understand in the original cut there was even a storyline with an older lesbian couple.. one of whom DIES.
posted by Erasmouse at 2:55 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


In my imagination they are played by Tilda Swinton and Indira Varma, with a cameo by Miriam Margolies as their sassy best friend, and there are copious sensitively filmed yet incredibly erotic sex scenes. Making the death part TOTALLY worth it. Also, everybody gets really great hair and this is the only storyline where nobody wears a turtleneck.
posted by Sara C. at 3:26 PM on December 11, 2013


Would also accept Meera Syaal, if Indira Varma is too young.
posted by Sara C. at 3:32 PM on December 11, 2013


WRITE THAT MOVIE, SARA C. WRITE IT NOW!
posted by crossoverman at 3:59 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Detailed Jezebel take on the movie.

tl;dr: They don't care for it.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:08 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Jezebel piece is brilliant.

"What percentage of Americans believe that Hugh Grant literally is the prime minister and/or boy king of the UK? It's not zero."
posted by colie at 1:49 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


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