Love Actually

Love Actually

2003, R, 135 min. Directed by Richard Curtis. Starring Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Billy Bob Thornton, Joanna Page, Rowan Atkinson, Andrew Lincoln, Lúcia Moniz, Heike Makatsch.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 7, 2003

Taking the ensemble romantic comedy just about as far as it can go, Love Actually (which is directed and also written by Four Weddings and a Funeral scribe Curtis) spins a merry skein of loves lost and found amid the bustle of holiday-season London. It’s such a lengthy skein that you wish Curtis, in his directing debut, would have scaled back a bit on the interlocking stories – there are more hearts on sleeves here than there are Labour Party regulars fed up with Tony Blair’s doggedly pro-Bush Iraq policy. Briefly, if such a thing is possible, the film revolves around a prime minister (Grant) who falls for his secretary (McCutcheon), a widower (Neeson) and his adolescent son (Thomas Sangster) who struggle to survive their grief, a company executive (Rickman) who falls for a sexy employee (Makatsch) while ignoring his wife (Thompson), and another employee in the same firm who tries to land her not-so-obscure object of affection (Rodrigo Santoro). There’s also a newlywed (Knightley) who is pursued by her husband’s best friend (Andrew Lincoln), a novelist in the South of France who’s after his Portuguese maid (Moniz), and the great Bill Nighy as an endearingly ridiculous and post-prime rock star out to milk one last hit from a novelty Christmas tune.

And there’s probably more going on, too, but after all that, it gets a bit blurry.

I seem to recall Billy Bob Thornton as a libidinous and Bush-like American president who gets a proper dressing down from Grant’s prime minister (to cheers, I might add, from the one Brit in the audience in the screening I attended), but once again, there are so many plotlines tangling and untangling in Love Actually that it’s all a bit much.

Grant and Thompson are the standout performers here, he with his muted London cool cranked up to 11 and she with her hurt eyes and furrowed brow, but Rickman, as the straying spouse, manages to make the surreptitious purchase of a Christmas gift (from Atkinson, no less) into a comic tour de force. Curtis is, without question, the most traditionally romantic fellow working in film today – his 1989 script for the film The Tall Guy, with Jeff Goldblum and Thompson, was a masterpiece of the genre – and so Love Actually is almost certainly guaranteed to be the feel-squishy hit of the season, despite the fact that it’s too crowded by half. Finally, it’s not so much the individual storylines that grab you, but Curtis’ unrelenting optimism. In the end, it’s nice to know that love, actually, does conquer all.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Richard Curtis Films
About Time
Love Actually maestro wants to make you cry with this romantic dramedy.

Kimberley Jones, Nov. 1, 2013

Pirate Radio
This British import exudes about as much outlaw swagger as Tom DeLay in a dance competition.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 13, 2009

More by Marc Savlov
Marc Savlov’s Top 10 Films of 2021
Marc Savlov’s Top 10 Films of 2021

Dec. 17, 2021

Moving stoner drama finds the downside of going legit

Oct. 15, 2021


Love Actually, Richard Curtis, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Billy Bob Thornton, Joanna Page, Rowan Atkinson, Andrew Lincoln, Lúcia Moniz, Heike Makatsch

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle