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LOVE ACTUALLY
U.S. Release Date: November 7, 2003
Distributor: Universal
Producer: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Composer: Craig Armstrong
Cast: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Billy Bob Thornton, Denise Richards, Sienna Guillory, January Jones
Running Time: 2 hours and 8 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (for sexuality, nudity and language)

Smug Actually
by Scott Holleran

Combining British humor with light romance as he did so effectively in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, writer and first time director Richard Curtis gives full scope to his philosophy in Love Actually. Though the tenderness of his previous movies comes in patches, Love Actually is too modern, too long and too much.

There are more affairs than a Love American Style marathon. There's Hugh Grant's goofy prime minister falling for an aide at 10 Downing Street, a grieving widower (Liam Neeson) with a stepson, a neglected wife (Emma Thompson) with a wandering husband (Alan Rickman), a plain Jane (Laura Linney) pining after a stud (Rodrigo Santoro), a newlywed (Keira Knightley) and more—it seems half of England is falling in love, with notable exceptions being gays and anyone over 60, who, for all the muticultural casting, are conspicuously absent.

The story's main thread is an annoying rock star who possesses none of the charm of Rhys Ifans's underwear-clad flatmate in Notting Hill. Don't bother trying to keep track of the dozens of episodes; they're all interconnected through work, blood and friendship and not one stands completely on its own—only one couple's story holds together. A writer (Colin Firth) who escapes to the country to work on his novel falls for a Portuguese maid (Lúcia Moniz), and theirs is the only courtship that evokes genuine romance.

A countdown to Christmas lets Curtis express the movie's cheerfulness, but it's overwhelmed by a distinctly modern sensibility: to love is to suffer. These martyred people don't fall in love so much as avoid falling in love, and what are supposed to be cute foibles are serious character flaws. Watching an adult ensemble in a state of arrested development wears thin.

Children fare worse. The movie's climax is a boy—a young boy—running after a young girl with whom he's in love. The sexualization of children here is subtle but real.

Funny lines, an infectious soundtrack and several promising newcomers—Lúcia Moniz as the maid is cool and captivating in the movie's best performance, and seductive Rodrigo Santoro owns the screen—can't save Love Actually from playing like a special two-hour episode of The West Wing with its smug cast cruising on the Love Boat.


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