Movies That Settle – Holiday Edition: Love Actually

Posted: December 21, 2015 in Movies That Settle, Uncategorized

First, I want to thank both of the people who gave me some positive feedback on some of my recent posts. While I obviously enjoy positive feedback of any kind, written comments are always welcome, so that others can see that they are not the only ones reading these. I mean, there are so few of you. We might as well have a dialogue.

Anyway, since ’tis the season, I thought I would make this post about a modern holiday classic (modern classic… a new genre), Love Actually, a movie that almost everyone is probably familiar with, and one that can be kind of polarizing, even in my own mind (Was Andrew Lincoln being forlorn and lovestruck, or creepy and stalker-y?). When I first saw it, I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship that ended quite terribly, so the idea that love was actually all around, as Hugh Grant narrates at the beginning, was pretty much utter hogwash to me. My stance started to soften over the years, and I actually went through a period where my roommate and I used to watch this movie rather frequently, and not even always at Christmas. Now, having seen it countless times and over-thought it to death, I think I can speak honestly and  objectively about it. Well, maybe not completely objectively. It is a Christmas movie.

I will forego my usual plot synopsis on this one (dry your eyes), because everyone knows the movie, and there are about 8 love stories in here of varying levels of drama. There’s Colin, the obnoxious, young Brit who travels to America to meet woman because he thinks his accent will be cute over here (which totally works because he gets to sleep with January Jones and Elisha Cuthbert, and a Bond girl all at once), and there’s the other extreme of Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, whose marriage is pretty much in the toilet. I will say that one of the reasons this movie has settled so well with me is that juggling 8 plot-lines in one movie is extremely difficult, because most screenwriters (myself included) have a hard time dealing with one, so Christmas cookies to Richard Curtis to being able to handle all that. I’ll let a little of the timeline-jumping slide because this film must have been a real bugaboo to  write and edit, and he did a great job when all is said and done.

Another reason this movie has settled so well with me is that, over the years and stages of my sanity, I have been able to identify with different characters. There were times when I totally identified with Andrew Lincoln’s love-sick sidekick character. Not because I was in love with my best friend’s wife, because that never happened, but just that the object of his affection was unattainable, and we’ve all been there, I’m sure. And yeah, it seems weird that he makes a video entirely of her, and his giant- cue card expression of love  can be read as creepy. And what exactly would he have done if Chiwetel Ejiofor answered the door?


When I was thinking about writing this post, I thought about this storyline the most, because I’ve seen a lot of things written on it on the ‘nets. I decided that he wasn’t being creepy because we have no idea what the history is between him and Keira Knightley. Maybe he saw her first and his friend scooped her up. And it’s not like he had videos of her in the shower taken from their shrubs. In fact, from the dialogue between them, you can infer that he was keeping his distance after their wedding. She even confronts him on this, saying that she wants to be friends, even though she thinks he’s never really liked her. That’s why one of my favorite moments in the movie (and any movie) is when she is watching the wedding video he made and that realization washes across her face when she finally grasps that he is in love with her. Now, she is left to wonder what-might-have-been, and he is left to think, “Crap. She knows.” And that friendship she was asking for is probably out the window. Lincoln gets his closure in the end, in my opinion, because he does tell her how he truly feels, and it’s not like he kidnapped her or anything. He had his cathartic moment, she gave him a little kiss to say, “Dude, you’re all right, and if I wasn’t married, I’d hit that.” And he realized that, as he said, it was, “Enough.” He is allowed to move on with his life.

Which is probably more than we can say for Emma Thompson’s rather sad housewife. They really pile it on this poor woman, even going so far as to make the actress wear padding to make her look more like a middle-aged homebody. They also make her the sister of Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister just to make her life seem more meaningless. Fortunately, he shows up just in the nick of time to lift her spirits in one of those Festivus Miracle-type moments.

But what really happened here? Well, Alan Rickman is blatantly told by his new assistant that she lusts after him. After several advances, his resolve begins to weaken, and he buys her an expensive necklace, which Thompson finds in his coat pocket and thinks is for her. When she opens her gift and finds a decidedly less-expensive CD, Thompson knows what’s going on. We then see the beautiful assistant in her bedroom, in her underwear, the bed un-made behind her, putting on the necklace. Now, I’m no sleuth, but it looks to me like Alan Rickman is schtupping his secretary. And at the very least, he bought her a very expensive necklace. My young, naive self used to think that he stopped just short of actually sleeping with her, but another part of a movie settling with you is that now that I’m older and wiser, and grumpier, I think they totally did it. Either way, it’s not good, and let me say right here that Alan Rickman is probably the only person awesome enough to play this part and not make you totally hate him.


Another thing my older self does now that my younger self did not was relate to Emma Thompson a little more. When she confronts her husband about the necklace that she did not receive, she wonders out loud to him if the necklace was “just a necklace, or if it’s sex and a necklace, or if, worst of all, it’s a necklace and love.” The “worst of all” part is the part that gets me. This is a woman who is married this man, has two children with him, and probably believes her life to be complete, but now knows that he either had an affair or contemplated it. She then asks him if he would stay in the marriage, knowing that, “life would always be a little bit worse.” That’s the real bummer, isn’t it? Much like Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson’s life is different, and “a little bit worse” to boot. Now, she obviously stays with him on some level, because she picks him up at the airport at the end, but when he asks how she’s doing, she repeats over and over that she is fine, although she is clearly not. Clearly, her life is a little bit worse.

But the one “love” story that every Matt Dursin stage can identify with (especially the older, wiser, grumpier one) is Bill Nighy’s aging rocker, Billy Mack. Apparently, in England, the #1 song on the charts at Christmas is a big deal, and this year, Billy is trying to make a comeback by changing the lyrics to The Troggs’ “Love is all Around,”to “Christmas is all Around.” Even he knows that this is a completely ridiculous idea, he go ahead and promotes it all over the country, making fun of his portly manager, Joe, every chance he gets. After Billy does attain the #1 song on Christmas, he gets invited to a glamorous party at “Elton’s,” who is obviously Elton John, leaving Joe to celebrate the holiday alone. Billy soon realizes his mistake and leaves the party so he can spend Christmas with Joe, realizing that Billy has spent the majority of his adult life with him, and that Joe is, in fact, the love of his life. They decide to get drunk and watch porn to celebrate. Forget “From here to Eternity” or whatever. This may be the greatest love story in the history of cinema.


On the DVD commentary, Richard Curtis explained that the inspiration of this storyline came from his relationship with Rowan Atkinson, who was famous for playing Mr. Bean and makes a hilarious cameo in “Love Actually” as the sales associate who excessively wraps Alan Rickman’s scandalous necklace. Curtis said that after working with Atkinson for years, and staying in hotels with him and sharing so many hours together, he realized that they had spent more time with each other then their own families. And he wasn’t lamenting it at all, because he also realized that he truly loved Rowan in a very real sense. Not romantically, but truly and probably deeply. Anyone who has life-long friends, as I have, can understand this kind of bond that develops over time. I have people that I have been good friends with for over 30 years, and it is hard for other people to understand that kind of love. But it’s there.

Supposedly, the ancient Greeks has six words for “love,” representing the various kinds. For example, “Agape” meant “a love for everyone,” while “Eros” translated roughly to “sexual “passion.” I think Love Actually covers them all and more, between Billy Mack and Joe, Liam Neeson and his step-son, or Laura Linney and her love for her brother. It also adds in a love for Christmas. There are so many times in the movie where the characters realize that Christmas is a time for love, and that’s kind of like The Force binding the universe together.Love-Actually-250x250

One of Andrew Lincoln’s cards to Keira Knightley says, “At Christmas you tell the truth.” Maybe it is this Christmas honesty that makes it hard for even someone like me to be grumpy and analytical about this movie.This one was good when I first saw it, it was good a few years later, and it’s still good, no matter which Matt Dursin is watching.

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