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Love Actually (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary; Deleted scenes; Promo; Making of; Music highlights; Storytellers; Music video 'Christmas Is All Around'.

A ROMANTIC comedy-drama, directed by the man who wrote the screenplays for Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bridget Jones’ Diary, and featuring a who’s who of British cinema and television, was always going to struggle to fully realise the sum total of its many ambitions.

Yet, for the most part, Richard Curtis’ star-studded Love Actually succeeds in becoming the unashamedly romantic slush-fest it so clearly wants to be, fuelled by some great performances from a terrific ensemble cast, and capable of putting a smile on the face of even the most hard-hearted cynic with its deft mix of life and love in London.

The plot is divided between several romantic scenarios, from the funny to the poignant, to the downright fairytale. Hence, we have everyone from Hugh Grant, as a love-struck bachelor Prime Minister, who falls for his cockney tea-lady (Martine McCutcheon), to a jilted writer, who retreats to the south of France, only to find himself hopelessly smitten with his non-English speaking maid.

The weightier fare comes from Liam Neeson, as a widower attempting to build a relationship with his distant step-son (who himself harbours a crush for the prettiest girl at his school), and Emma Thompson, as a middle-aged housewife, who is beginning to suspect her husband (Alan Rickman) of playing away from home.

And if that wasn’t enough to chew over, then there’s a bride (Keira Knightley) having problems with her husband’s best man (played by Andrew Lincoln) and, best of all, an ageing rock star (Bill Nighy) attempting to make a comeback at any price.

With so much going on, and so much talent on show, it is little wonder to find that certain stories fail to realise their potential, while certain actors become lost in the mix.

Renowned stage performer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, for instance, who so shone in last year’s Dirty Pretty Things, is quite simply wasted in the story involving Knightley’s bride and Lincoln’s best man, while the story involving Laura Linney’s shy romantic almost becomes forgotten amid the desire to deliver one crowd-pleasing ending after another.

Curtis, too, seems content to trade on the familiar, using the F-word to comic effect once again (as he did in the opening moments of Four Weddings) and throwing in enough chases down streets after loved ones, and last-minute airport dashes, to have you baying for some restraint.

His decision to include some political commentary into the Prime Minister’s segment also feels awkward and misjudged, with observations on Tony Blair’s administration and US-Anglo relations feeling a little unwarranted in such escapist fare.

Where Love Actually really comes into its own, however, is in the little touches, such as Grant’s reference to Margaret Thatcher as ‘a sexy minx’, or Lincoln’s hopelessly romantic doorstep wooing of Knightley, using only written cards.

Kris Marshall’s comic turn as a sandwich seller determined to take his ‘English accent’ to Wisconsin, in order to get some sex, is also particularly funny, as is any scene involving Nighy’s wretched rock star, who has a penchant for telling it like it is, and romping away with every scene he is in (his exchange with ‘Ant or Dec’ is a blast).

But while Nighy emerges as the undoubted star, it is Thompson who walks off with the best moment, a silent breakdown in a bedroom, after she has realised that her husband is, in fact, having an affair, that is a wonderfully realised triumph of under-statement.

It is during moments such as these - both comic and heartfelt - that Curtis confirms his reputation as the king of the British romantic comedy/drama, and which should have women everywhere rushing to see it.

And while Love Actually may ultimately be the type of film which makes girls gush and guys groan, it’s hard not to be charmed in some way.

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