Love is actually worth it

By
December 4, 2003

Love Actually. Typical romantic comedy? I think not. The
movie opens with a flurry of seeming home footage of lovers of all
sorts meeting each other at Heathrow Airport: boyfriends and
girlfriends, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, brothers and
sisters, friends – meanwhile, a handy voice-over tells us just what
this movie is about. Love, actually. Love of all sorts. Love
between a man and a woman, love between men, love between brothers
and sisters, friends, mistresses, children. There’s calf love,
there’s lust, there’s unrequited love, there’s lost love, there’s
romance, there’s adultery. Love is just everywhere.

Still sound like a typical romantic comedy? Well, let me go
on.

Love Actually is actually a series of nine stories. Each
person within each story is somehow intertwined with others,
whether as a friend or as a neighbor, a co-worker or as a friend’s
friend. They are all somehow connected. And the movie itself is
told almost as a montage of people leading nine very different
lives as they meet a new love, keep an old one, give up one, betray
one and confess one.

Each story shows a different side of love’s many faces. There
are some that are funny, some that are sad, others that are
depressing, and still others that are just plain sweet and
poignant. And this is where the film diverges from the average
romantic comedy. It depicts love as complicated, as not always
working, as not always being sugary, as never being perfect. It’s
real. And for this reason, I found this movie supremely
refreshing.

I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, it’s true, but even I am
getting sick and tired of beautiful women meeting beautiful men,
falling in love after a predictable set of obstacles before finally
coming together in the end.

The only memorable thing that comes out of such movies are often
the quirky sidekicks, which (as in Brother Bear) are only
there to disguise the lack of good story. Where is love on screen
like it really exists in life? You know, the love that’s strong
between two people but can’t be consummated or even expressed for
whatever reasons life presents us.

The love that comes too late, after you’ve already settled for
someone else. The love that knows no boundaries and makes you do
the silly things you do for it. The love you can’t have because of
your obligations to something else. The love that you keep up out
of habit. The love that’s more a refuge than a pleasure. You know,
love. It’s all here, in this film where a truly all-star cast that
includes Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman (Harry Potter’s Snape),
Emma Thompsen, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney (Mothman Prophecies,
Life of David Gale
), and Keira Knightly (Bend It Like
Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean
) act out the very different
brands of love that middle-class men and women encounter in their
lives. (Oh, and by the way, they’re all English too, except for the
fabulous Laura Linney).

In short, the director of this film, also the director of
Bridget Jones’s Diary, is well aware that love is
complicated. And I appreciate that he based Love Actually on
this very premise. It’s refreshing to see a filmmaker truly
optimistic about love yet also realistic at the same time. This is
no Wedding Planner or Pride and Prejudice (both films
I own, by the way). This is a movie that brings the topic of love
down to a more earthy level, a film that actually tries to reason
through all the different kinds of love we have in this world.

Granted, you college-educated viewers will (and should) argue
that it doesn’t show “all the different kinds of love” because it’s
specific to a group of straight, middle-class Western-world
citizens. This is true, I admit it. But there are always the very
basic elements of love that are problems and joys throughout
history.

In this way, I think Love Actually is in many ways a very
universal film. And I believe that it is a breath of fresh air from
the perfect, rose-colored, candy-coated love stories we so often
see pumped out of Hollywood like cookie-cutter houses in
suburbia.

I make no assertion that this film is not a genre piece. It is.
But it’s a genre piece that has managed to maintain its creativity
through the process of mass-production. And it is, I think, a rich
and enriching story for it.


Love is actually worth it was published on December 4, 2003 in Arts & Entertainment

Print this page Print this page