Saturday, December 23, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movies #10: Love Actually (2003)

Happy Holidays everyone! To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, I've decided to complete a daily review series of 12 Christmas movies leading up to the big 12/25. To qualify, the movies have to be tied to Christmas in some way and also something I've never seen before. I'll be going in chronological order. So, without further ado, if you got chestnuts, roast 'em - and enjoy my 12 Days of Christmas Movies!

Love Actually
Dir. Richard Curtis

Inspiring the likes of Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, the "dozen celebrity couples falling in love on a holiday" genre starts with Love Actucally. It's really the Pulp Fiction of romantic comedies in that there really is no main character - it's more a tableau of different situations in which people find love. Well, at least this movie's definition of love. I personally found many of the relationships unrealistic and troubling, especially considering in some circles this movie is an annual Christmas viewing!

It would take up too much time to go over every individual plot thread (or just to list the actors), but the basic description of each scenario seems unromantic on their own. There's a grieving father helping his young stepson seduce a girl, ultimately encouraging him to trespass through a post-9/11 airport security checkpoint so he can ask her out. There's a guy trying to hook up with his best friend's wife. There's a man who's willing to risk losing his wife and children by buying a fancy necklace for a sexy co-worker. There's an older man trying to seduce a Portuguese woman half his age who doesn't even speak English. Even the Prime Minister has a twisted sense of love - he fires a woman mostly because she's hot and he wants to go out with her.

You're fired. Hey, you want to go out?
Based on the above "romances," it seems that ultimately this movie is saying that love is largely based on instant physical attraction. Because so many stars and characters are crammed into this movie, we learn little about their personal lives or interests - things that really matter in believing a relationship. What we're left with is shallow hot people desperate to take other hot people to bed. Ironically, the most romantic, natural relationship in the movie was between two awkward stand-ins for what appears to be a pornographic film. Their "intimate" work environment is more or less routine, so sex lost its meaning - by default they had to form something akin to a charming bond.

How I Met Your Mother
Another thing that Love Actually seems to promote during courtship rituals are "grand gestures." A staple in the chick flick genre, these moments are when a character makes a bold, pre-meditated, clever declaration of love, typically in front of an audience. This movie is FILLED with them, endorsing the idea that your crush will swoon over you if your production values are high enough. Probably the creepiest example of this is when Andrew Lincoln (pre-Walking Dead) woos his best friend's wife (Keira Knightley) by posing as a Christmas caroler at their door and silently flashing "I love you" declarations on cue cards. This is after it's made clear that his videotape of their wedding only included close-up shots of her face. This is the movie people gush over every year?!

He'll be "walking dead" if her husband catches him
Don't get me wrong, I'm not averse to rom-coms where love exists in a heightened reality and happens in a somewhat unrealistic way (just check my review on The Shop Around the Corner). But I believe that this movie isn't even really about love. It's about the fantasy that you can have anyone you want, whenever you want, as long as you're hot. This cynicism is made explicit repeatedly with unnecessary fat jokes throughout the film. Before Colin Firth makes his grand gesture, he asks his intended's father for her hand in marriage. Then the girl's overweight sister appears behind him as a punchline - "What, her?"

While there are some sporadic funny moments here and there, and the superb cast elevates the shlocky material, it was tough for me to get over the serious cheese on display here. Love Actually posits that you don't need to learn a damn thing about a person to fall in love - it's perfect for the generation used to finding a mate by "swiping right."

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


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