Review by Gordon Justesen
Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman,
Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy
Director: Richard Curtis
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 135 Minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2004
if you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion that love actually is all
I will be the first
to admit that the romance genre is hardly ever, for lack of a better phrase, my
cup of tea. But there are several cases where I will be occasionally and
immediately won over by the charm and absolute pleasant feeling generated by the
proper film. In short, it ends up in being the sort of movie experience that,
like the perfect loving relationship, you wish would never end.
Such is the case
with Love Actually, which is possibly
one of the best movies to ever emerge from the genre. With a strong and
delightful cast of actors on board, this is bound to win over anyone, as long as
they are willing to take a slightly different approach for this kind of movie.
Writer/director Richard Curtis was the screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones' Diary. I had only seen two of those films, and liking
them while not labeling them as necessarily great pieces. With Love
Actually, Curtis has clearly delivered his strongest piece of work to date.
The movie's story
pattern is similar to that of Playing By Heart, another favorite romantic film of mine which was a
most undervalued release. That movie told a story of contemporary love through a
series of stories involving different characters in and around Los Angeles. The
story concludes in a memorable and convincing manner by revealing that each of
the characters is connected with each other. It's very easy for a story
structure like this to lose the viewer in an instant, and yet both that film and
Love Actually have made the impossible
possible with such vibrant storytelling.
Set in glorious
London, with just a matter of weeks before Christmas, the movie interweaves the
dilemmas facing numerous characters. The cast is lead by Hugh Grant, in yet
another winning performance, as the Britain's prime minister, and although this
is in no way a reflection of Tony Blair, Grant makes the character thoroughly
believable. Upon meeting the various staff members, he realizes a feeling of
love at first sight when he meets his catering manager, Natalie (Martine
stories include the following, and I'll make it my best to sum everything up.
Writer Jamie (Colin Firth), has moved to a cottage in France after being cheated
on, and discovers an unexpected attraction to his newly assigned maid, Aurelia
(Lucia Monz). Newly widowed Daniel (Liam Neeson) takes up the task of raising
his step son (Thomas Sangster), who soon admits to being in love with a
classmate despite being only 11.
there's a dilemma facing the always-busy Karen (Emma Thompson), the prime
minister's sister, who eventually comes to suspect her husband, Harry (Alan
Rickman), of possible infidelity. Harry is also playing something of a
matchmaker for his assistant, Susan (Laura Linney), whose crush on co-worker
Carl (Rodrigo Santoro) has lingered around the workplace.
develops when Mark (Andrew Lincoln), serving as the best man at the wedding for
a long time friend, begins to feel strong feelings for the bride, Juliet (Keira
Knightley), which would be considered a surprise based on the notion that
everyone suspect he truly despised her and had a secret crush on his male
friend/groom. Then there's young Colin (Kris Marshall), who's so fed up with
stuck up English girls that he decides to fly over to America to illustrate a
possibility that the hottest of American girls will become smitten with a brash
Englishman in a heartbeat.
Oh, and I haven't
even mentioned the one story angle that actually opens the film. It involves the
comeback of has been rock star, and former heroin addict, Billy Mack (Bill Nighy).
The singer's rebirth comes as a result of his Christmas take on the pop song,
"Love is All Around". Even as the song is taken over the airwaves,
Mack doesn't even hesitate to say, while promoting the single, that it's the
biggest pile of crap he's ever recorded. There's no doubt in my mind that the
basis for this character was both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
With all these
stories intertwining, it's simply amazing how the film doesn't go off track for
a second. The editing is without a doubt quite masterful, as the intersecting
stories seem to check in at just the right time. And although it may seem as if
the movie has a series of happy endings, they are each worthy of co-existing in
such a delightful, multi-layered piece. The final two moments, involving a
Christmas eve music production and Jamie's confession of love to his maid, are
especially well handled.
The simple truth is
that this movie is nothing short of a wonderful movie delight. I seriously feel
that anyone, be it a fan of romantic films or an all out resister of them, will
find it absolutely hard to resist. After all, this review should illustrate that
point clearly. I normally don't go for love stories, and I'm giving it a four
star rating. It's also important to note that the joyful feeling that Love
Actually injects is one that a lot of today's films don't seem to produce.
And believe me, that's Actually saying
BONUS TRIVIA: As if
the cast wasn't already jammed packed with famous faces, look for brief pop up
appearances from the likes of Shannon Elizabeth, Elisha Cuthbert, Denise
Richards, Claudia Schiffer and Billy Bob Thorton as the U.S. President whose
name could very much be considered George W. Clinton, if you could imagine that.
enjoying an impressive track record for the year in terms of transfers, soars
once again with a much glorious looking presentation. The anamorphic picture is
ever so strong in terms of clarity and detail (London has never looked more
beautiful). It seems as if every single shot was given the utmost amount of
attention. It certainly appears that way because there is not a bit of flaw in
the presentation. Colors are especially engaging on the eyes. Just like the film
itself, the look of the movie is nothing short of a superb delight. A full
screen version is also available.
The 5.1 mix is a
quite serviceable audio track, and then some, for a movie of this type. With
dialogue serving as the driving force of the film, and the word delivery is
impeccably sharp as a blade, there's also a heavy dose of music, which gives the
presentation a much welcome boost. With the likes of such artists as Maroon 5,
The Beach Boys, Dido and Kelly Clarkson, to name a few, providing musical
contributions, the sound range is lifted up a notch or two as a result. In other
words, as good as this kind of film can get on the format, and a bit more.
Not too heavy,
while at the same time not too light. The disc includes a commentary track with
writer/director Richard Curtis and stars Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy and Thomas
Sangster. There is also a group of deleted scenes with an into by Curtis, a
music video for Kelly Clarkson's song "The Trouble With Love Is", and
a brief look at some of the pivotal music choices for the movie, titled
"The Music of Love Actually".