Wednesday, January 29, 2014

42. Love Actually (2003)

Code-name: Brit X-mas

Writer/Director: Richard Curtis
Type: British Christmas rom-com
Music: Craig Armstrong

Notable Nominations:
Golden Globe- Best Film (Comedy/Musical)
Golden Globe- Best Original Screenplay- Richard Curtis

[The Music Circuit]
Billy Mack- Bill Nighy
Billy Mack's manager, Joe- Gregor Fisher

David, the Prime Minister- Hugh Grant
Natalie- Martine McCutcheon
U.S. President- Billy Bob Thorton

[The Office]
Harry- Alan Rickman
Mia, Harry's secretary- Heike Makatsch
Sarah- Laura Linney
Karl- Rodrigo Santoro

[The Cabin in the Woods]
Jamie- Colin Firth
Aurelia- Lucia Moniz

[The Porn-Film Shoot]
John- Martin Freeman
Just Judy- Joanna Page

[The Wedding]
Juliet- Keira Knightley
Mark- Andrew Lincoln
Peter- Chiwetel Ejiofor

[The Funeral and the Christmas Show]
Daniel- Liam Neeson
Sam- Thomas Sangster
Karen- Emma Thompson
Joanna- Olivia Olson
Carol- Claudia Schiffer

[Coming to America]
Colin Frissel- Kris Marshall
Tony- Abdul Salis
Stacey "American Dreamgirl"- Ivana Milicevic
Jeanine "American Angel"- January Jones
Carol-Anne "American Goddess"- Elisha Cuthbert
Harriet ("She's the 'sexy' one")- Shannon Elizabeth
Carla ("She's real friendly")- Denise Richards

Rufus, the Jeweler- Rowan Atkinson

Caution: Spoilers ahead

In the introduction of the "Glee"ksmas episode, "Glee, Actually," Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) hinted that the show would pay homage to "Love Actually" with its plot structure. She then added it's "a movie that I don't think anyone cares for but is constantly on cable",_Actually

Yes, the fact this movie is in my top 101 says it all, but I just wanted to take this moment tos say: "Yes, Sue Sylvester, people do care about this movie. Particularly me, my mom and her side of the family."

It's not so much that we live and breathe this movie as it's become a Christmas tradition in recent years. Simply cannot go a season without seeing it at least once.
It doesn't just have a great cast, but they play characters all of us can see ourselves in. Throughout the movie, no matter what's going on, you find yourselves pulling for them to get their happy ending. However realistic some of them are... who cares, really? That's what movies are for. Making impossibilities, like Colin's American dream coming true or Sam reaching the gate to tell Joanna that he loves her, possible because they make us warm and fuzzy. Heck, those are rom-coms in a nutshell, really.

If I remember right, this was one of many movies my mom talked me into... not that I needed much convincing. I already loved Hugh Grant. Plus the chance to see Alan Rickman, Professor Snape himself, play a normal person... hard to resist.
As it usually happens, I find more to love about certain movies with time either because I can understand the circumstances better with my own experiences or, in this case, the names have become more familiar.

I didn't recognize Bill Nighy until he appeared as Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgour in the 7th Harry Potter movie. Or Rodrigo Santono until I saw him in "Post-Grad" alongside Alexis Biedel.
But the most notable connection I made, roughly an hour ago, Chiwetel Ejiofor (yeah, the guy who's up for an Oscar for "12 years a slave") was the guy who married Keira Knightley in this movie... my mind's still picking up the pieces from that explosion.

Another cool tidbit I found out a couple years ago, in the heat of my newfound crazy love for this movie, the actors who play Sam and Joanna went on to do voiceover work in the Disney Channel series "Phineas & Ferb."
Sam plays Ferb, Phineas's "man of few words" step-brother and Joanna plays Vanessa, the daughter of Perry the Platypus's nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz. They even wrote a story arc where Ferb has a crush on Vanessa.

Say what you will... "Phineas & Ferb" was the last great show Disney Channel put out (coming from someone who grew up with "LIzzie McGuire" and "That's So Raven"... well, I grew up with them as soon as our cable provider carried the Disney Channel).

Zooey Deschanel's website had a great article someone wrote the other month, ranking the relationships featured throughout "Love Actually" from least to most romantic.
I love how Santina Muhi broke each relationship down, what made them work, what didn't and being blunt where bluntness was absolutely needed. The rest of this entry will be my 2 cents on each relationship, but I recommend giving this article a read 8-) especially if you love this movie as much as we do.

One storyline that falls by the wayside, particularly on cable but also in conversation, is John and Just Judy. I didn't even know until I saw the Extras on the DVD that they weren't porn stars, but STAND-INS. What they were doing all over the art studio, being the na├»ve person I am, I didn't understand it. I thought it was part of this odd infatuation some British filmmakers have with commonplace nudity. As if there had to be a story arc with notable nudity because they're not as uptight about it as Americans are.
(Strangely enough, writer/director Richard Curtis isn't British, but a Kiwi [New Zealander]).
Ultimately, the two of them do hit it off and decide to go out, come the end of the shoot, to see what happens.

I'm not following Santini's rankings exactly, but I plan on getting the awkward, blunt and negative moments out of the way before getting to the really good stuff.

Sarah is probably the character I can relate to the most. She's been suffering from the pangs of unrequited love for two years, pining for the office hottie, Karl. There's one notable scene where she's racking up the courage to talk to him, waiting until the end of the day with her face all dolled-up, only to let the moment slip through her fingers out of shyness.
Been there, done that...
Thanks to the magic of movies. she does get her chance with him. Then it goes to hell and never comes back.

Throughout the movie, you see Sarah's phone ring off the hook. Only at this pivotal, the most awkward of all, moments do they reveal the caller is her brother who is less than well. I don't know if he's mentally ill or he's schizophrenic (because it's mentioned he hears voices in his head), but I cringe whenever I get to this part.
I really want to say I wish that problem didn't exist for her, that she just put herself first for a change and stop picking up the goddam phone, but deep down, I know I would have made the same choices. You're compelled by blood to be there for your family, however bad their timing may be.

Another cringe-worthy storyline is Alan Rickman's flirtation with his secretary. I don't care if the dude could hex me to death with the Avada Kedavra curse or that she was practically asking for it like the office skank she is. He was being a jerk and should have known better.
Which makes his scene with Rowan Atkinson even sweeter. He picks out a necklace for his would-be "mistress" (they never officially get together) and Rowan Atkinson takes forever, putting all kinds of flourishes in the gift-wrapping process. Couldn't have cast that part better.

Supposedly, Rufus the Jeweler was meant to be a Christmas angel, explaining his intervention at the airport scene... taking that into account, his scene at the jewelry counter has a secondary purpose as well. By taking so long with the gift-wrapping, it allowed time for Emma Thompson to see her husband by the jewelry, gave her the idea to sneak a peak at her gift and allowed her to experience the residual disappointment. Ultimately, this allows her to catch onto his cheating and brings their martial problems to the forefront, something they obviously needed.
They never did explain what happened to their marriage after that. Did they spend time apart to take a break? Or did they end up divorcing?

On a different note, we have the unconventional relationship between fading rock star Billy Mack and his "fat manager," Joe. The movie begins with his cockamamie Christmas song where they simply changed the lyric "love is all around" to "Christmas is all around"... cannot hear the original without bursting out laughing :-P
Billy Mack knows how stupid it is, yet the song somehow gains enough steam throughout December to become the #1 song of the season... go figure, right?
But even after getting back on top, getting invites from Elton John to party, he goes back to his "fat manager" and declares his love for him. An interesting twist for sure, but I guess it makes sense we had to have one sprinkle of "same love" here.

Interestingly, one of the people at the wedding reception (I think it was Sarah) mistakenly deduces that Mark is sad because he was in love with his newly married friend Peter... when, in fact, it was Juliet. In the time they've known one another, Juliet had been under the impression that Mark didn't like her because he never talked to her. But it was the opposite. I don't know which scene makes me tear up more: when Juliet sees her face at the focus of her wedding video (one of many examples of Craig Armstrong's beautiful score) or when Mark tells her the truth with cue cards and "Silent Night" playing in the background.

So sweet... :-P

Probably my favorite storyline is the one with Colin. It's a shame that Kris Marshall hasn't done any mainstream movies since this one because he's a good looking guy. A bit of a dork, yeah, but cute.
He has this grand scheme to go to America to find love since American girls go crazy for guys with British accents. Well... duh, of course. And like I said, only in the movies would that prove to be true.
The main criticism about this part is that all the American girls that he "hooks up with" at the bar are played by models... funny how January Jones and Elisha Cuthbert became big names far after this movie came out.

As a whole, this movie has one of the best soundtracks. Lots of great artists sprinkled throughout the album. In addition to "Christmas is all around," we have
  • "The Trouble with Love is" by Kelly Clarkson
  • "Bye Bye Baby" by Bay City Roller (which I will always associate with the funeral scene... a great way to remember a loved one)
  • "All you need is love" (before the "Forever (on the dance floor)" wedding went viral on YouTube, this was the first pop culture instant of a marriage ceremony with a twist... word is that puppeteers did it for Jim Henson when he passed)
  • a couple selections from Joni Mitchell (whom Emma Thompson had said was her emotional education... I first heard about her in a Prince song but nowadays, "River" and "A Case of You" jump to mind automatically)
Colin's storyline has my favorite soundtrack selections because they were current. "Sweetest Goodbye" by Maroon 5, "Smooth" by Rob Thomas & Santana and "Wherever you will go" by The Calling.

Of course, the one part of the soundtrack everyone who's seen this movie remembers coincides with the storyline everyone who's seen this movie remembers...

Daniel was married to Sam's mom, who'd just passed away. He's been distant so he asks him if something is troubling him. Apparently the trouble is that he's in love with a girl in his class.
I take it back. THIS is my favorite storyline because Liam Neeson goes on to prove he's the coolest stepdad ever. I have my own reservations about "Titanic," but I always love how they used it in this movie.

When the two of them are moping, Daniel says "we need Kate and Leo and we need them now" and they go on to reenact the "King of the World" scene... they talk about Jack and Rose as if they were soulmates, how they knew they were the only one for each other. Sam is absolutely positive that Joanna was "the one".
He then gets the idea to get good at the drums because girls like musicians. This translates to the play the kids are putting on at school, which includes an unorthodox Nativity scene (with Barney as the baby Jesus, a whale, an octopus and some lobsters) and Joanna singing Mariah Carey's synonymous Christmas anthem "All I Want for Christmas is You."

My dad's almost never into rom-coms, but that caught his attention enough where he had to look up Olivia Olson. And when it plays at Christmastime, he refers to it as "that Mariah Carey song"... definitely a candidate for the most current Christmas classic we have.
(Ironically, not a single Christmas album we own includes it)

Granted, the scene where Sam rushes through the airport to catch up with Joanna (who's going back with her family to America) wouldn't have happened in this day and age with all the 9/11 precautions... and this movie does take place post-9/11. Chalk it up to movie magic or paying homage to "The Graduate"... either way, Sam does what he set out to do. Joanna does know his name and she likes him back.

It's a tough call... who I'd rather end up with, Colin Firth or Hugh Grant in this movie. And this is discounting the fact Hugh Grant is the freaking Prime Minister :-P

Hugh Grant's the better looking one, but I feel a kinship with Colin Firth because he's playing a struggling writer.

His storyline starts rather horribly... he finds out his girlfriend had been cheating on him with his brother. So he retreats to a cabin in France for relaxation and to get some writing done. There, he slowly falls for his Portuguese housekeeper Aurelia. Despite their language barrier, they get along famously. Even more romantic, both of them learn each other's language and the season ends with him proposing to her.

I don't know if that's romantic or the fact Hugh Grant literally went door to door to declare his feelings for Natalie, a new member of his household staff.
One scene I can never get over is seeing his dance throughout his headquarters to "Jump (For My Love)" by the Pointer Sisters... if you haven't seen it, you gotta YouTube it. It's super cute, if not extremely hilarious. Either way, great for a smile.

Their love story hits a brick wall when the American President comes to town.
First of all, Billy Bob Thorton is our president? In addition to the models playing the American girls Colin gets together with, what does this guy playing our president say about us?
That the office of U.S. President is a joke to the Brits?

I'll let the politically inclined folks debate about that one.
But because of this newfound friction with our President, with Natalie caught in the middle, Hugh Grant decides to "redistribute" her so they don't have to see each other again.

Her Christmas card ultimately gives him enough incentive to look her up where she lives. "At the dodgy end." Only in the movies would a Prime Minister go door to door to find the girl of his dreams... not to mention Hugh Grant, probably one of the best looking British actors, actually getting elected to such a prestigious station.
Aside from getting to the end, the coolest highlight is when a couple girls ask him to sing carols and he does "Ol' King Wenceslas" with his chauffer.

Just great fun, this movie. I discovered "The Holiday" as the perfect holiday movie to cozy up with with a hot beverage. "Love Actually" is even better... kinda like a soapy TV Show you and your girlfriends would watch together and enjoy with ample drinks and sweets.

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