Directed by: Richard Curtis
Written by:Richard Curtis
Starring: Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Thomas Sangster
Released: December 26, 2003
Grade: C+

Guess what folks?  Love actually is all around us.  Hugh Grant hits us with this startling “revelation” in the very opening scene.  It’s the kick-start to a 135 minute marathon where the word “love” will be uttered an inordinate amount of times.  If you’re looking for subtlety, you won’t find it here.  If you’re looking schmaltz, manipulative garbage, then look no further.

Love Actually is one of those films where there are many characters and many storylines with a common link.  I’m a huge fan of this technique having adored Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and Gosford Park.  First time director Richard Curtis appears well out of his depth with this material.  It’s as if he’s shot six separate movies, sliced them into random pieces, mixed them in a blender and shoved the results in a film can.

There’s no flow or continuity.  One minute the film is trying to be a hilarious laugh-out loud comedy, the next minute it’s a tear-jerking drama, the next minute it’s a sentimental feel-good flick.  The film continues in this silly loop with unrelenting annoyance.  Some of the stories aren’t even resolved – they’re just left hanging.

I believe passionately in my criticisms but I sense I was the minority at my sold-out preview screening.  Audience members giggled with glee but this only added to awful taste in my mouth.  Just because there’s a cool soundtrack, unexpected cameos, big names stars and Christmas cheer doesn’t mean it’s a worthy film to see.  It’s missing the key ingredient – a plot.  A little style wouldn’t hurt either.

Let me quickly sum up the story as I must compulsorily do in any review.  Billy (Nighy) is an aging rock-star who’s releasing a tacky Christmas single in the hope of getting one last number one hit.  Jamie (Firth) has just caught his wife in bed with his brother and has gone to his French villa to escape and write a novel.  Daniel’s (Neeson) wife has just passed away and he’s left dealing with a complicated step-son.  Juliet (Knightley) has just married the man of her dreams only to find his best friend complicate the blissful matrimony.  Sarah (Linney) has had a crush on a much younger man at work for over two years and is looking for the courage to ask him out.  Harry (Rickman) is being slowly seduced by his secretary at work although waiting at home are three kids and his wife Karen (Thompson).  Oh and yes, Hugh Grant is an eligible bachelor who also happens to be the Prime Minister.  There’s other sub-plots too but if you blink (as I did), you’re likely to miss them.

Bill Nighy’s portrayal of the rock-star is the pick of the bunch.  He’s funny in every scene.  Rowan Atkinson makes a nice cameo too at a department store.  But for the rest of this talented cast, they have nothing to work with.  The dialogue is horribly laboured and I couldn’t care whether these spoilt brats fell in love or not.  These characters have no human qualities whatsoever.  Never could I believe that the English would make a film so riddled with American stereotypes.

Love may be all around us but it wasn’t coming from me in that theatre.