‘The film is a mess – I’ve always hated it’: How Love Actually ruined Christmas
Bill Nighy in love as Billy Mack - Peter Mountain
It regularly tops the country's most popular Christmas movie polls. It's jam-packed with some of the country's most beloved actors - Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Keira Knightley - all of whom fall in love with a curvy series of interconnected stories filmed in scenes that have become iconic.
Why did I always hate love?
During the lockdown, my publisher finally gave me the green light to explain and investigate my problems with it in a book. And now that after you've re-examined the film, guess what? I realized that I was absolutely right. Here are just a few of the reasons Love Actually is a terrible movie.
It doesn't seem to understand Christmas
Perhaps the most famous scene in love is actually when Andrew Lincoln's Mark shows up on Keira Knightley's Juliet's doorstep to declare his love for her over an armful of hastily drawn index cards. The reason Mark says he declares his love for his best friend's (noble) wife's is because Christmas is supposedly the time when people are supposed to tell the truth to one another.
I'm not sure where the writer and director Richard Curtis got this from. It is certainly not something that I have come across as a slogan for one of my 40+ Christmases on earth. In fact, I've only found evidence to the contrary. Christmas should be a time when people should keep their opinions to themselves so as not to ruin Christmas.
It has a women's problem
Love Actually, simply put, hates women. Be it the pursuit of Keira Knightley; the constant fat shame of Martine McCutcheon; the ugly power dynamic of most Trysts, pitting powerful men against normally younger, less powerful women; the prevailing notion that supermodels are the female ideal; or the fact that Bill Nighy's character, old rocker Billy Mack, would undoubtedly have knocked on the door of Operation Yewtree in real life - Love Actually, it's an homage not to love but to the objectification of women.
It has a distorted idea of love
Love Actually pretends to explore the different types of love, but is really only interested in Eros, the Greek term for romantic sexual love, and a very childish vision. There are moments of disturbance or family love, some traces of philia or platonic love (although much stronger examples of friends treating other friends very badly), and in some ways perhaps an example of Xenia, the love that shows up If you accept a guest in your home, as seen when Colin travels to America to become a sex tourist.
We all got Harry wrong
I'm not a contrarian, of course, but I can't deny that it's a minority position: I'm sorry for Alan Rickman's Harry. This vicious character, a horny adulterer with the half-closed eyes of a lizard, is cheating on Emma Thompson. Just how could he? But I don't think Harry's heart is in it. In his affair with his secretary Mia, we see the acts of a man going through the movements, part of a Reggie Perrin-style breakdown. Choosing his gift to Mia, an expensive necklace, only takes two seconds.
What he really wants is the old spark with the woman he married. His Christmas present for her is not a superficial trinket, but a Joni Mitchell album - Both Sides Now - which is literally described in his sleeve notes as a series of tracks devoted to the cycle of a relationship, from "initial flirtation" to " Disillusionment ”and ends with“ acceptance ”. It's Harry's cry for help to his distant, sour wife. He is the most tragic character in the film. (Notably, I don't consider Harry a saint; he finally believes he can get away with spending £ 16.99 on his wife for Christmas.)
Get therapy for the child
It's bad enough that Liam Neeson's widow Daniel treats his wife's death like he's written off a favorite car, but how he's trying to deal with the grief of his stepson, 11-year-old Sam, for whom he is now alone Guardian, takes dysfunction to a new level. He insults him, gives him advice contrary to his old age and enables an unhealthy obsession with a school crush.
We all know Neeson has the potential to be a great father, especially when you are kidnapped and need to be rescued by a man with very specific skills, but less so when you need comfort or understanding for a parent's death at that age is the collapse of a whole universe. I can't help but feel like Sam needs to speak to a qualified professional.
Liam Neeson and Thomas Brodie-Sangster actually in love - Peter Mountain
Christmas number one is supposed to be fun
I'm not quite naive enough to suggest that the real spirit of Christmas is devoid of corporate cynicism, but Christmas number one is important to people. Just check out the most recent campaigns to curb the dominance of soulless X-Factor lining in the best festive spot.
Threaded by Love Actually, however, it's an openly cynical guy who ends all openly cynical guys. Billy Mack's infernal catchy tune seems a fitting subject for the film's cynical mess. The repurposed Troggs song ("Love is All Around" becomes "Christmas is All Around") is itself a repeat of the inevitable Wet Wet Wet hit from Curtis' Four Weddings and a Funeral from 1994 and interweaves Love Actually with all the style and finesse of a Rambo self-stitching. Billy Mack, the lead singer of this glitzy fool, has such a disdain for his own song that it is difficult not to speculate that it functions as a metaphor for Curtis' feelings about his own movie. The song is a joke, just like the movie, and the joke is on us.
The movie is a mess
Supposedly split into a traditional five-act structure based on the five-week run-up to Christmas, this is where the kick ends. Love Actually, it's a mess, a shaky building of twisted storylines, dead ends, restless time shifts and unlikely character phenomena. This is due somewhat to the fact that the first cut is three and a half hours and Curtis swings the ax pretty mercilessly to bring it down to two and a half.
But the result provides for some jaw-dropping moments, including the character of Tony, who appears to be retiring from a wedding to make a big budget porn movie, and Emma Thompson advising Liam Neeson it is time to talk about his wife's death getting over what appears to be the day before his wife's funeral. Tough Love actually.
How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colorful Narcotics) by Gary Raymond (Parthian Books, £ 10) is now available
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