Fifty plots? Too much
Fifty British movie stars?
Quite smashing, really
Rating: 1/5 (plot/script), 4/5 (actors/actresses), I guess I’ll average it out to 2.5/5
This wasn’t a movie. It was nine movies. Nine little movies rolled into a two-hour package. Exactly what I expected from a film that branded itself as “The Ultimate Romantic Comedy.” And thank God it was so inexorably British, because they saved it from being an absolute mess.
There’s something about British actors and actresses, I don’t know what it is. The accents? The perceived politeness of the British manner? It’s infectious. If Love Actually starred 50 A-list American stars, I’m certain it would have been widely panned. Not because American stars are inherently bad, but because British stars just have this…THING that renders them all likable. Colin Firth is so blubbery and quiet and polite you can’t help but adore him. Hugh Grant may star in every romantic comedy of all time but he’s very funny. Alan Rickman is a gift from above. Keira Knightley is pure class. Emma Thompson exudes joy. Liam Neeson is Liam fucking Neeson. You can compile a roster of British stars and it will work no matter what you do.
The talent on screen covered up the jumbled mess happening around them. I counted nine distinct plot lines, one of which never even intersected satisfactorily with the other eight. This prolific preponderance of plots was purposeful, of course, so I can’t say it was an unintended clutter. But it was difficult to enjoy, even if I knew things would tie together at the end. This was turgid film-making at its toxic peak.
Here are the plots. To stay sane, I’m referring to all the actors and actresses by their real names and not their character names:
The creepy one where Rick from The Walking Dead hits on his best friend’s recently married wife.
Starring: three people who were way better in other things! This is also the most generic of all the plots, and strange as hell. Chiwetel Ejiofor marries Keira Knightley and his best friend Andrew Lincoln (Rick from The Walking Dead, because that’s who he will be for the rest of his life) offers to film it. Lincoln has been icy cold toward Knightley for no reason, until she realizes he loves her. In fact, he hardly filmed the wedding at all – he decided to focus mostly on Knightley. Weird! Then there’s that scene that everyone memes all the time where Lincoln is holding up the cards in front of Knightley’s home. It doesn’t amount to anything.
The adorable one where Colin Firth rebounds big time and tries to marry his new Portuguese housekeeper.
Colin Firth is a gem. In this plot, his girlfriend cheats on him and he retreats to a cottage where he falls for his housekeeper. They speak completely different languages, so he endeavors to learn Portuguese. This is a sappy sweet storyline that is actually not unbearable, probably because the “different languages” factor makes the dialogue snappy.
The one with the American girl who takes her stupid boss’s shitty advice about love.
Laura Linney has a crush on Rodrigo Santoro (who will now be referred to as Xerxes because that’s his most famous role. Remember, the half-naked bald guy with the baritone in 300 who slays Gerard Butler? Yeah, that guy). Her boss, Alan Rickman, knows, He gives her the worst advice of all time throughout the movie. This ends with her being heartbroken by Xerxes, who obviously has more important things to deal with.
The one where Alan Rickman is still awesome even though his character is awful.
Alan Rickman is one of my favorite actors of all time, in case you weren’t aware. Here, he not only dispenses terrible pointers to Laura Linney, he also openly cheats on his wife, Emma Thompson, with homewrecker Heike Makatsch (never heard of her). What a scumbag! But still, Alan Rickman is the best.
The depressing one with Liam Neeson, eerily without wife, doing a terrible job teaching his sprung son about love.
Poor Liam Neeson. Five years before the death of his wife in real life, he played a character dealing with the same tragedy. I’m only hoping he dealt with it better in real life than he did in this movie. His song, played by the guy who plays Jojen Reed in Game of Thrones, is in love with the most popular girl in school. It all ends up working out in the end, but telling your kid to become a drummer to woo the girl seems…I don’t know, kind of strange? Also, this is the first case I’ve ever seen of a child doing the Run. This time, the kid runs to the airport to profess love to his bonnie lass before she boards for the distant land of America.
The one with the guy who goes to Wisconsin to woo American girls with his accent.
Seriously. This was a plot. It goes exactly how you’d expect, except for the fact that EVERYTHING WORKS OUT. Kind of funny, really.
The one where Prime Minister Hugh Grant fires his hot secretary because she’s too hot for him to focus on running a country.
My favorite plot of all, because it involved Hugh Grant, who I’m warming up to, and President Billy Bob Thornton. Grant is the new prime minister and falls for his secretary, who he then catches dirty talking with President Thornton. He fires her and makes a rousing speech about the U.S. being a bully (hooray for Britain). They end up together through a string of stupid reasons, and they have a scene where an audience views them kissing. Sappy. The winner here was Thornton, who played a boorish president with flair. Murca. Also, a weirdly large number of fat jokes, all directed at an actress who is clearly not fat by any definition.
The one where Martin Freeman is about as good at being a porn star as Bilbo Baggins.
This had nothing to do with anything until you learn that Martin Freeman (who I love) likes attending Christmas pageants. Eh. This seemed like a way to get Freeman a paycheck while throwing some boobs up on the screen.
The one where Bill Nighy had no impact on the plot whatsoever.
What even was this? Bill Nighy plays rock legend Billy Mack, a drug-addicted near-sociopath who wants kids to do pot and who thinks everything he’s ever done is terrible despite being a multimillionaire. Throughout the movie, the character appears on screen and in the background and in other forms, but ultimately had nothing to do with anything that happened.
Oh, and Rowan Atkinson plays a jewelry salesman. According to Wikipedia, his character was initially supposed to be Christmas angel. Thank God that didn’t make it past the script reading.
Ultimately, these plots were all connected by gossamer threads. That was the most disappointing part. There wasn’t a big payoff at the end. Everything just kind of connected simply because it had to.
Anyway, I’m getting a little carried away here. This was a weird movie, not bad, not unenjoyable, but not fun to watch. A lot of charm, a lot of plots, but definitely more than a simple holiday cash grab. I wouldn’t watch it again, but I completely understand why it has such a voracious following.