At the beginning of the new romantic comedy “Love Actually,” Hugh Grant’s character discusses love. Many people feel our society is prone toward greed and hate, he says, but he believes love is still everywhere.
“When those planes were crashing into buildings on 9/11,” he continues, “we did not get reports of anyone making last-minute calls to express their hate. All the calls were made to people who were loved.”
“Love Actually” is a multi-plotted ensemble film that looks at love from many different perspectives. Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s best films, the people in this large cast of characters are somehow all related, though that does not become clear until late in the film.
There are too many plots in the film to describe here, but a few are worth mentioning. Hugh Grant plays the prime minister of Great Britain (which is almost as funny as Billy Bob Thornton’s cameo as president of the United States) who finds himself smitten with one of the domestic help. Emma Thompson is a happy housewife and mother whose life will be disrupted by someone else’s choices. The always wonderful Laura Linney plays a woman desperate for love; her role is one of the most humorous in the film at certain moments, and certainly the saddest role in others. Finally, Liam Neeson plays a widower helping his stepson figure out how to express his first crush.
Like many of Woody Allen’s characters, these folks find themselves in compelling situations and speak with witty–and sometimes hilarious–words. Though the cast is large and talented, the star of the film is the screenplay. This is not a perfect script, and not all of the jokes work. Some plots seemed underdeveloped and others could have been excluded to strengthen the film. Overall though, what is on screen is often touching, clever and insightful.
Perhaps the film’s greatest strength is that it realizes that “love” happens in a great many relationships, and not just those fueled by romantic interest. Though there are many romantic entanglements in this film, there is also love between a stepfather and his son, love between two lifelong friends and love between siblings. The film itself it not a spiritual work in any sense, but one familiar with Scripture cannot help but ponder the apostle Paul’s words, “And the greatest of these is love.” One may also consider those words from Huey Lewis, “That’s the power of love.”
Though most of the storylines in this ensemble film deal with issues of love, a couple of stories focus more on lust than love. “Love Actually” deserves the R rating because of nudity, some dialogue and suggestive content. This is not as innocent a romantic comedy as the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan variety.
Some would say that “Love Actually” is too sappy and sentimental; most of the plots end happily. The film is most certainly both, but it also makes some poignant and authentic statements about relationships and about the actuality of love in our world.
Set during the holiday season, and opening as the holiday season begins, this film offers the hope that there is still enough love in the world, in spite of all that is bad. “Love Actually” is the best and most intelligent romantic comedy to be released in a long time.
Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Ablemarle, N.C.
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity and language
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Cast: Jamie: Colin Firth; Daniel: Liam Neeson; Karen: Emma Thompson; Juliet: Keira Knightley; Prime Minister: Hugh Grant; Sarah: Laura Linney; Harry: Alan Rickman.
Visit the official Web site for “Love Actually.”