BY PATRICIA DRAZNIN
England’s most eligi-ble bachelor, the Prime Minister, “fancies” his personal assistant; a young loser at love flies overseas to score with American babes on the merits of his British accent; a grieving widower counsels his young stepson in the ways of love; an aging rock star records a corny Christmas number and stoops to the dregs of commercialism . . . .
Modeling his successful Four Weddings and a Funeral, writer/director Richard Curtis interweaves several tales of love at Christmas in the United Kingdom. The film’s title is “an abbreviation, actually” for the premise that unites these many scenarios: that in spite of the dark events in the world, “love, actually, is all around.” With attention to comedy and romance but not excluding pangs of tragedy, the stories reveal the many facets of love: the risk, the disappointment, the exhilaration, the pain, the deception, the humor, the challenge, and the pause for thought.
Love, Actually features a veteran cast including Liam Neeson, the mighty Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, the dashing Colin Firth, and the extremely dashing Hugh Grant as England’s unmarried Prime Minister. And together they create a film that is chock full of rare moments. Bill Nighy claims center stage as the unabashed aging rock star who freely shares his most candid thoughts; Rowan Atkinson demonstrates the fine art of gift-wrapping that still has me laughing; Emma Thompson’s dazzling delivery illuminates one of love’s most terrible challenges; and Martin Freeman and Joanna Page portray shy porn actors who bond during filming.
This romantic comedy also includes some less compelling moments that should not have survived the rewrites. Curtis’s screenplay showcases unbelievable situations, which can be highly entertaining when the unbelievable is making fun of itself. But stopping short of parody, Curtis often leaves us dog paddling in a pool of the ridiculous and the maudlin, which could account for the mixed reactions from critics and moviegoers. But you still might find it quite “entertaining, actually.” You’ll have to see for yourself.