Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


LOVE, ACTUALLY (2004). Writer/Director: Richard Curtis.

Curtis wrote the screenplay for the more successful (if unspectacular) Four Weddings and a Funeral; directing his own screenplay this time he's much too self-indulgent, with no one to rein him in. There have been many fine films over the years that mix a variety of characters and try somehow to pull them all together, but despite some memorable moments of charm and humor this one doesn't quite work. Some of the interlocking story lines include a widower (Liam Neeson) who encourages his very young stepson to pursue the girl of his dreams; a new prime minister (Hugh Grant) who has a personal assistant removed from his office because he's simply too attracted to her; and a married woman, Grant's sister (Emma Thompson), who discovers that her husband is falling for a woman at his office; and so on. There's also an aging rock star who has one last hit and realizes the only person he really loves (platonically) is his obese manager; and a handsome young man at a wedding who is obsessed not with the groom, as we're sort of led to believe, but with the very lovely bride. (Although Curtis included a long-term gay couple in Funeral, in this picture they are conspicuous by their total absence.) Curtis was obviously attempting a labor of love [pun intended], making a film that illustrates the point that there's an awful lot of love in the world despite all the ugliness in the headlines, but some of his ideas should have been jettisoned before they left the printed page. The bit with two porn actors who fall for each other never quite jells, and the sub-plot about the frustrated London lad who finally gets laid in America is handled in a ridiculous “frat boy” fashion. Neeson encouraging his eleven-year-old son to dash past airport security just so he can say good-bye to a little girl he's never even spoken to before borders on the utterly ludicrous – and dumb. Some viewers will suspend disbelief and enjoy this movie thoroughly, but a more thoughtful, if equally romantic, viewer may find that the overlong film offers much less “love” than it ought to.

Verdict: It will hold your attention but you won't necessarily be happy that you sat through it. **.

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