Love, Actually (3/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley

This is little more than a not-so-cheap rip-off of Love, American Style (1969-74), an American sitcom consisting of short vignettes involving love. The difference is that Love, American Style was funny, interesting, often well-written and intelligent, and generally involved established relationships. Love, Actually (written, produced, and directed by Richard Curtis) is long, boring, poorly written and involves people who have just met (or haven’t met yet).

 Worse, it’s guilty of false advertising. If you saw the trailer, which I did many times, it looks like a Hugh Grant picture, starring Hugh Grant. Alas, Grant could have shot his scenes in a day or two. He’s in it, all right, but not much. The picture loses credibility right off the bat because it starts out with Grant entering No. 10 Downing Street after just being elected Prime Minister. Never will you see a less convincing Prime Minister than Hugh Grant.

 Actually, and you should pardon the use of the word, this film should more accurately have been entitled, Infatuation, Actually, because love is never to be seen. These people have such an ephemeral relationship to the people whom they are represented as “loving” that the word loses its meaning. These are people in heat, not love.  In Love, American Style, at least the people were in established relationships.

 “Love” implies a certain morality and fidelity. In one segment shortly after a woman marries a man she is approached by her new husband’s best friend, and she responds favorably. What kind of morality is that?

 There are two and a half good performances in this film.  Emma Thompson rises above the material as a wife who feels that her marriage is being threatened by a floozy who’s after her husband. And Rowan Atkinson steals the movie as a department store salesman. That might tell you about the quality of the movie as these scenes take all of five minutes.

 The half belongs to Hugh Grant. Despite his limited role, cute Hugh gives us the character he’s perfected, like Stan Laurel perfected his character.  You get the feeling that Grant could just mail in his performance he does it so often. But Clark Gable was always Clark Gable and there was nothing wrong with that. So there’s nothing wrong with just being Hugh Grant, except he should try being Hugh Grant without also trying to be the Prime Minister. In Sense and Sensibility (1995), at least, he displayed that he did have a slightly broader range. Maybe he’ll try it again sometime.

 The rest of the vignettes are almost too shallow for comment. Liam Nielson is probably the dumbest father in the world, encouraging his son (one of the weirdest looking kids I’ve ever seen) to pursue a girl with whom he’s never spoken and to break airport security, something for which he could be shot as he’s running away from the security guards. But the people who made this film thought this would be funny. I thought it was irresponsible. Worse, the girl with whom he’s infatuated is a 10 year-old singer who is shown dressed in a slinky, sexy dress singing a Christmas song in a sexy style. I don’t think a 10 year old should be displayed as a sex symbol.

 There’s more. In another segment two people who are stand-ins for porn stars in a porn movie are constantly simulating sex, totally naked, and strike up a romance. Funny?  Maybe. Not to me.

 I saw this in a packed theater and some people actually clapped, so there are people who will find this entertaining. Maybe you’re one of them. I wasn’t. For me the two hour eight minute running time seemed almost interminable. This is a superficial film of low intellect with an equally low moral tone.

 November 8, 2003

 The End