Actually No

Sam, you aren't even kidding

Sam, you aren’t even kidding

Before I begin, let me just say that this post contains major spoilers for Love Actually, which came out in 2003, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, which was released in 1994. Movies that old don’t need spoiler warnings, but it’s Christmas time so I’m being a good sport and giving them anyway.

Yesterday morning a friend shared a link to this Buzzfeed piece called 29 Things That Would Be Different If “Love Actually” Were Set Today. The entertainment value of the piece was totally lost on me because at the time I saw it I had never seen the movie – which came as a surprise to some of my friends. So since I had a couple of free hours and it would fit in with my watching a Christmas movie a day theme I figured I’d give Love Actually a go yesterday afternoon.

It has everything I occasionally look for in a film. Christmas-themed, sappy love stories (sometimes I love them and sometimes I hate them), Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Laura freaking Linney…this is a who’s who of actors I go out of my way to watch. But not this film. I’ve always gotten a vibe off of the reactions of others that this film wouldn’t entertain me the way it does them…and I was right.

Here is where I warn you that a lengthy rant about a beloved movie is ahead. I had some free time to write and rant so here it is. (Yes, I know it’s only a movie. Sometimes you have to just let it all out…so here I go.)

My favorite parts of the film were the opening and closing. I enjoyed Hugh Grant’s voiceover about Heathrow and love and I adored the shots of everyone at the airport that began and ended the film. Also, any time you add God Only Knows to ANYTHING you’ve won me over. (Which brings me to the one thing I did truly love about the film – the soundtrack.) But most of the rest of the movie fell flat on the romantic scale for me.

Tallying up the main characters after the film makes you realize this film isn’t as end-all romantic as many think.

Let’s get the genuinely romantic stories out of the way first:

I found Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz ), in the moment, quite romantic. Until I remembered that he was coming off of a traumatic relationship where his brother slept with his girlfriend and the next woman he fell in love with cleaned his house, fed him and didn’t speak English.  The perfect woman?

David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) were cute. In the way every romantic film Hugh Grant has ever been in was cute. Which is to say I found it passable but unoriginal. (At one point while watching I wondered if every man in England used the clumsy, shy, stammering act Hugh Grant, Colin Firth and Martin Freeman have down pat because, holy cow, how annoying would that eventually get?)

The most romantic couple in the film, for me, was Sam (Thomas Sangster) and Joanna (Olivia Olson). The kids. The most romantic part of this film involved two kids. While I still can’t figure out why they needed Liam Neeson in this film, at least he provided the glue for the adorableness of a young boy’s first love. When Sam explains to his step-father that Joanna IS his one and only love, my little heart ached. I loved this part of the film. I hated that they wrapped up Daniel’s storyline by hooking him up with a Claudia Schiffer look-a-like because, nudge, nudge, isn’t that funny? Even still, this storyline made the rest of the film bearable for me.

And now for everything I hated about the movie.

Why were John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) in this movie? Just so we could see nudity and fake sex scenes? I dig me Martin Freeman but this entire storyline seemed out of place in this film. It didn’t work as comic relief for me (at least Colin and Tony were funny) and it sucks out any of the warmth the film tries to bring.

Let’s just chop Billy (Bill Nighy), Joe (Gregor Fisher), Colin (Kris Marshall) and Tony (Abdul Salis) out of this as well. In fairness, I found all four funny and relatively entertaining but they added absolutely nothing to the story at all for me. And what was the point of Colin’s storyline, that English women are shallow, that American women are shallow, or both?

I’m going to jump right into the part of the story many of my Love Actually loving friends have beaten me to death with because of the many iconic scenes involving these characters. Mark (Andrew Lincoln, looking amazing I will admit) is in love with Juliette (Kiera Knightly, who never ceases to annoy me) who just so happened to have JUST married Mark’s BEST FRIEND Peter (Chiwetelu Ejiofor who deserved much better than this).

The scenes the world won’t let me stop seeing (long before I ever decided to watch the film) are 1) a church full of people singing (and playing) All You Need is Love on Juliette and Peter’s wedding day. In context I, admittedly, found this adorable, if not a little contrived. When Mark’s secret is revealed it becomes creepy. 2) Juliette realizing Mark loves her when she watches the video he took of her wedding day. Again, in the moment it’s a bit romantic but then you remember this is the wife of his best friend and that video looks a lot like stalking. And 3) the scene NO ONE WILL EVER STOP ADDING TO THEIR LIST OF ROMANTIC MOVIES SCENES – Mark visits Peter and Juliette’s home on Christmas Eve to silently confess his love to her via cue cards.

Why does no one talk about the fact that this is his best friend’s wife? I’m torn between being creeped out by his obsession with Juliette and feeling sorry for him that he has to go through the rest of his life (or at least the next month that the film covers) alone and pretending he doesn’t love her. And why the hell does Juliette chase him down and kiss him? She just got married. TO HIS BEST FRIEND. Don’t lead him on. Don’t be a jerk to both him and your husband. Oh my God I hated this scene so much I want to kick something.

I feel like there might be something wrong with me that one of the (supposedly) most romantic scenes in movie history does nothing for me but make me want to smack Andrew Lincoln the way Cher did Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck and tell him to snap out of it.

I watched this film on Netflix but if I had a physical copy of the DVD the last two storylines would have made me take said DVD and snap it into tiny pieces.

Here we go.

Karen (Emma Thompson) is a lovely person. Good friend to Liam Neeson’s Daniel, loving mother and wife (to Harry, played by Alan Rickman which automatically alerts you that douchebaggery is most likely ahead) and supportive sister to David. SHE’S LOVELY as Emma Thompson almost always is. So how do the filmmakers repay her? By having her husband cheat on her with his secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch). Not only does he cheat on her but she finds out on freaking Christmas Eve in possibly one of the saddest scenes in a romantic comedy ever filmed. As if Both Sides Now didn’t already always make me burst into tears. Karen gets absolutely nothing for being a warm, loving person except punched in the gut. Holy cow, I hated this storyline. HATED IT.

Although not as much as I hated the Sarah (Laura Linney) and Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) storyline.

Let’s take a seemingly nice and hardworking woman who has had a crush for years on a co-worker and give her some hope when it turns out the co-worker is interested in her as well. YAY! How romantic. You harbor a crush for two years only to find out that your crush likes you too! Yay! Merry Christmas!

But wait. Both your parents are dead and you live in a foreign country with your brother who lives in a hospital for the mentally ill. Because of your love for your brother coupled with what I imagine is crushing guilt that you also are not mentally ill, you torpedo your chance at happiness and fun to spend all your time catering to your brother.

Out of all the stories in Love Actually I think the reason I disliked this one the most is because of how realistic it is. If I wanted to watch a depressing film depiction of reality I’d throw on Cry Freedom. In a romantic comedy set at Christmas the last thing I want to see is Laura Linney giving up her only shot at happiness because she feels obligated to her brother. I sobbed at the end of her storyline. SOBBED. And not in the good “Man I needed a cry, that was great” way either. I hate you, Richard Curtis, you masochist. HATE you. (I will also never forgive you for killing Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral.)

Well, it felt good to get that off my chest. Onward.

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