Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
I read through the other reviews of this film on various sites...I was immediately struck by the number of "A" range ratings for this little jewel of a film from Richard Curtis, who brought us "Bridget Jones' Diary" and "Notting Hill." I agreed with so much of what was said regarding this film, but I simply can't bring myself to put it in the "A" range. I think I would consider that 85% of the film works beautifully, and for me an 85% is a "B" to "B+" film. I jump this up to a B+ primarily due to its wonderful spirit, tremendous heart, organized storytelling and tremendous performances. "Love Actually" follows the lives of 8 different couples, along with some other folks, during the time leading up to Christmas in London, England. These couples, while not fully fleshed out (and how could they be in this 129 minute film?) do provide us with laughter, tears and insight along the way. Some scenes work better than others, but all work on some level.
Curtis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers due to his ability to bring laughter & love & innocence to the screen in such an entertaining way.
First off...what works?
Emma Thompson...oh my, Emma Thompson. Yes, I love this woman...I find her stunning, gifted and simply able to add so much to so little role after role after role. She does it here again in a role that could have been so one-dimensional. Her line delivery, her facial expression...so poignant and powerful. One can't help but feel her experience and yet her determination to remain dignified and present for her children.
Thomas Sangster, in the role of Liam Neeson's son...what a young find we have here. He also seems to have brought out an exemplary performance from Neeson, an actor whom I have never cared for but is simply tender & hits all the right notes here. I didn't care for the "get over it" approach to grief that seemed present here, but I loved the scenes with Sangster throughout the film and in the closing moments as Neeson urges him to follow his heart.
I, for one, loved the aging rock star played by Bill Nighy. It was a silly sort of add on, and a uniquely resolved clip BUT Nighy brought such a nice energy to the role that I couldn't help but want to see him get his #1 hit.
Hugh Grant was good, but not quite up to his "Notting Hill" and "Bridget Jones's Diary" performances....Keira Knightley does well with limited options and Billy Bob Thornton makes a nice appearance here along with a fun cameo from Rowan Atkinson.
"Love Actually" features several other small, wonderful performances. It made me laugh, made me cry in a couple places and generally was well paced. It's a tremendous romantic comedy that far outshines most American comedies. I recommend it as a date flick or simply for those of us who need a reminder that love is actually all around us.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic