Thursday, 7 July 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 21 - Love Actually

#80 - Love Actually

What’s this, you say? Another Chick Flick? Well, this time around I’m gonna have to disagree with you. Just because it has “love” in the title and has plenty of romance in it, I wouldn’t call it a Chick Flick. Here we have a nice drama film with an ensemble cast made up of some of the best British actors around. In fact the only actors it’s missing would be Maggie Smith, Rhys Ifans, James McAvoy and Ian McKellen.

It starts off with five weeks until Christmas and about ten different stories going on between various people, all connected to each other slightly. We have David the new Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) being attracted to Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) a girl who works in Downing Street until he catches her in an indiscretion with the American president. Then there’s Harry (Alan Rickman) a married man whose much younger secretary keeps flirting with him. Daniel (Liam Neeson) is a man whose wife has just died and his son Sam has a crush on a popular girl in his class. Juliet (Keira Knightley) has just married a man and doesn’t seem to get on with his best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) until she discovers he’s actually in love with her. Colin (Kris Marshall) is fed up of failing with English girls so he sells his flat to go to America, in hopes of scoring. Sarah (Laura Linney) likes a co-worker Karl but is too busy trying to take care of her younger brother. Jamie (Colin Firth) has just been cheated on by his girlfriend and retreats to his French house where he strikes up an attraction to Aurelia, his Portuguese housekeeper who doesn’t speak English. Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is an old pop star who makes a comeback by covering “Love is All Around” with “Christmas Is All Around” and hopes to make the Christmas number 1. Then we have John and Judy, two stand-ins who bond while shooting a porn film. 

The main thing about this film is seeing how all the stories link up with each other. For example, we see many characters at Peter and Juliet’s wedding at the start and they then split up into their own separate stories. Billy Mack doesn’t interact with any of the characters but they are shown watching his music videos and TV appearances at times as well. It is interesting how other characters will appear in another character’s story even when they don’t know them. For example, Sarah talks to Mark at the wedding and David runs into Mia while he’s trying to find Natalie’s house. It does give a good example of how everyone is all connected at times. And then we have most of the characters all meeting up for the big Christmas school show near the finale.

As mentioned above, the film has an all-star cast with a ton of great veteran British actors. In addition to the ones mentioned above we also have Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton as well as cameos from Rowan Atkinson, Claudia Schiffer and Ant and Dec. Bill Nighy is just awesome in this film. I am not a fan but he was just bust-a-gut funny, especially with his scene on Ant and Dec where he delivers the immortal line “kids, don’t buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give you them for free”. Also very entertaining is Emma Thompson and she actually reminds me of one of my friend’s mums (minus the whole thing with the secretary of course) while also giving us this little gem “there was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?”. Again, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant make my list and again they weren’t awful. I liked their characters and their storylines apart from one random moment where David starts randomly dancing to “Jump (For My Love)” in Downing Street. Liam Neeson also plays a dad much better than he did in Taken though it is a little hard to watch his wife’s funeral especially after Natasha Richardson’s death (fun fact, when I first saw this film I thought Emma Thompson was her). Alan Rickman is pretty hilarious too and when I first saw the film, I was still used to him as Snape so it was a nice change to him playing a likeable character.

Although the film is a comedy, for me the best scenes are the really dramatic ones. There’s the scene where Juliet watches Mark’s video of the wedding and she’s happy at how good it is before she slowly realises that Mark’s only filmed her. That scene is almost heartbreaking to watch with how Mark stays in complete composure until he leaves his flat and then loses it in the middle of the street. An equally tear jerking scene comes where Karen has seen Harry buying a gold necklace and she goes to open her present thinking she’ll find the necklace but it’s something else instead, and she’s realised he’s given it to his secretary. She sits up in her room listening to Joni Mitchell while tearfully looking at pictures of her family, before putting on a brave smile and pretending everything’s alright in front of her kids. 
Moving on from the tears, there are some truly hilarious scenes as well; as mentioned above, Billy Mack’s appearance on Ant and Dec is just plain bust-a-gut worthy. And then Colin stops in an American bar and within minutes has three gorgeous American girls fawning all over him (including Elisha Cuthbert as well). Even more hilarious is the scene where we see all three undressing him – the actor actually returned his paycheque for that day because he had such a good time having the three actresses undress him. And special mentions have to go to the climactic Christmas show where 11-year-old Olivia Olsen (Joanna) sings “All I Want For Christmas”. They actually had to edit the song in post production to make it sound more believable as a child singing. Then the curtains open to reveal David and Natalie kissing backstage.

So, all in all, a very fine British film indeed; it’s definitely a great representation of our culture and customs, as well as being a nice feel-good film. I do love myself some good tragedies, horror films and the occasional tear jerker but I do love some good positive films as well. Without being at all cheesy this film does give you that nice warm and fuzzy feeling inside. It does have a good message that isn’t heavy handed – love is possible to be found as long as you’re willing to take the steps to make it happen for yourself. Until next time, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

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