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Love Actually

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
Love Actually
from Film Forum, 11/13/03

Director Richard Curtis hit home-runs at the box office with his romantic comedies about stuffy Brits and reckless Americans. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones's Diary have all become lasting audience favorites. His latest, Love Actually, features his biggest cast of stars yet.

Hugh Grant plays the new British prime minister, who falls for a member of his staff (Martine McCutcheon). Colin Firth is a writer whose battlescarred heart finds love again. Emma Thompson, whose absence from screens in recent years has been obvious, plays a woman whose relationship with her husband (Alan Rickman) is showing signs of wear and tear. Pirates of the Caribbean's Keira Knightly plays a newlywed, Liam Neeson has a role as a widowed stepfather, Laura Linney plays a woman with a long-concealed crush, and Bill Nighy is a hit as a rock star past his prime but attempting a tacky comeback.

Romance films are always popular during the holiday season, and Curtis is considered a champion of the genre. But mainstream press critics have mixed feelings about Love Actually. Religious press critics are mostly displeased with what they argue has little to do with real love.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "There are humorous moments to be sure. There are also some genuinely sincere, heartfelt sentiments expressed. Certainly, some stories are more effective than others and some are funnier. But they all share one thing in common. Oddly enough—it isn't love."

Anne Navarro (CNS) disagrees. "It doesn't confine itself to romantic love … but allows for the true love that exists among friends, that flows from parents to children, and is present between siblings. The film's driving force is that love in its every form is within grasp, if only we reach for it. Clever dialogue, several perfectly delivered zingers and fine performances camouflage the narrative's flimsy parts." But she does have one objection: "The film is seriously marred by the inclusion of the unwarranted, brazen sexual visuals."

Michael Medved (Crosswalk) says it "represents the cinematic equivalent of one of those elegant, charming Christmas confections … gorgeous to the eye and sweet to the taste, but providing almost nothing in terms of substantive nourishment."

Steven Isaac (Plugged In) says, "Love is all that matters here. Morals don't matter. Respect doesn't matter. Propriety doesn't matter. Marital status doesn't matter. Gender doesn't matter. It's a disgrace to even call it love under such conditions. Lust and codependency would do much better."

Mainstream critics tend to agree the film spreads its many plots rather thin, but they differ over the success of this approach. Ryan Gilbey (The Independent) is unimpressed with "its self-referential irony, its preference for tics and eccentricities over flesh-and-blood characterisation, and its escalating structure of competing climaxes. Love Actually is the Kill Bill of romantic comedies."

from Film Forum, 11/26/03

Regarding the frothy romantic comedy Love Actually, Roger Thomas (Ethics Daily) disagrees with most of the religious press critics that heavily criticized the film last week. Thomas calls it "the best and most intelligent romantic comedy to be released in a long time. 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."