Richard Curtis is, you could easily say, quite a giant figure in the modern British film and entertainment industry. His comic writing has provided audiences with a number of classic moments and when he created Four Weddings & A Funeral he managed to, in a way, give us the ultimate rom-com that seemed to appeal to everyone. So he almost set himself up on a fool’s errand when he tried to top his own work by writing AND directing this star-studded movie all about love of all sorts during the run up to Christmas.
Bill Nighy plays a faded rock star who is trying to make a great comeback, with the help of his manager (Gregor Fisher), and is pinning his hopes on a seasonal variation on the hit song “(Love) Is All Around” – an irony that will surely not be lost on fans of Four Weddings & A Funeral. Colin Firth plays a man who needs to get away to mend a broken heart and finds himself enjoying the company of Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) despite neither understanding what the other says. Liam Neeson is grieving the loss of his wife and wondering just how young Sam (Thomas Sangster) will cope. Hugh Grant is the new, cool Prime Minister who gets a bad feeling when he takes a shine to one of his assistants (Martine McCutcheon). Martin Freeman and Joanna Page are a couple of body doubles who start to warm to each other as they are put in a number of embarrassing, nude positions. Hopefully, they will get to spend some time together with their clothes ON. Kris Marshall is Colin, a young lad who believes that he will find love and some form of sex life if he heads to America. Alan Rickman is a man married to the lovely Emma Thompson but who finds one of his new employees (played by Heike Makatsch) quite hard to resist. Laura Linney really, really loves Rodrigo Santoro but always seems to spend her life responding to consistently interruptive phone calls. Then we have the lovely Keira Knightley getting married to the handsome Chiwetel Ejiofor and worrying about how his best friend, played by Andrew Lincoln, doesn’t seem to like her very much.
If you read that paragraph above and think the movie sounds a bit messy and complicated then you must also bear in mind that there are many secondary characters (including a superb little role for Rowan Atkinson) that I haven’t included and also the fact that many of the people mentioned above know each other in a variety of ways, allowing for the storylines to intersect occasionally.
You must also bear in mind that, while the movie isn’t the 100% success it could have been, everything is so well handled by Richard Curtis that nothing ever starts to drag or get overly complicated. Yes, there’s a lot in the mix but this remains a rather simple romantic comedy, after all. I’m not wanting to disparage the movie or the subgenre it represents but I do want to point out that all of the intertwining storylines above are all remarkably similiar in aim – they show love, all types of love (unspoken love, family love, forbidden love, romance, strong friendship, etc).
I used to say that Love Actually was half great and half mediocre but that’s not really true. It actually has about 75% greatness. Still not enough to make it into the top tier of either Christmas movies or romantic comedies (and it falls far short of the greatness of Four Weddings & A Funeral, which even managed to overcome the great handicap of having Andie MacDowell in it) but definitely enough to make this a movie that should please most people.
The cast are all great but highlights, for this viewer anyway, have to include the comedic brilliance of Bill Nighy, the dancing skills of Hugh Grant, Colin Firth being as bloody lovely as he can be (this film won’t do a damn thing to put off his many female fans) and that great scene with Rowan Atkinson testing the patience of Alan Rickman.
If you haven’t seen it before then you’re almost guaranteed to be entertained. If you have seen it before then it’s more than likely a movie that you’ve already decided to visit on at least one occasion.
WRITER-DIRECTOR: RICHARD CURTIS
STARS: BILL NIGHY, GREGOR FISHER, HUGH GRANT, MARTINE MCCUTCHEON, LIAM NEESON, THOMAS SANGSTER, COLIN FIRTH, LUCIA MONIZ, ALAN RICKMAN, EMMA THOMPSON, LAURA LINNEY, MARTIN FREEMAN, JOANNA PAGE, KRIS MARSHALL, CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, ANDREW LINCOLN
RUNTIME: 135 MINS APPROX