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356 of 387 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2003
"Love Actually" is just the right mix of romantic comedy and drama to leave you with that warm, fuzzy feeling as you leave the theatre. It's an ideal Christmas movie for moms and dads who want to see something else while the kids venture into more PG films.
Writer/director Richard Curtis enlists a plethora of some of the finest British actors (and a few noteworthy Americans) to tell several different love stories. While it seems that there may be a few too many characters at first, the overall flow of the film allows the viewer to keep track quite easily. The cast is led by the ever-so-charming Hugh Grant as the British Prime Minister. While some critics have called this casting unbelievable, Grant actually pulls it off by portraying a more human, but yet stronger PM that we would all love to have leading us. His dance to the Pointer Sisters' "Jump for My Love" borders a bit on ridiculous, but it is nevertheless fun to watch. In the film, the PM is caught between leading his country with a clear head, or giving in to his feelings of attraction to his tea server Natalie (played by musical actress Martine McCutcheon).
And then there's Emma Thompson, who plays Karen, sister to Grant's PM and a long-married devoted mother. She suspects that her husband Harry (Alan Rickman) may be cheating with a sexy co-worker. Her performance, simply put, is a revelation. The scene where she is in her bedroom is an example of phenominal acting. Hollywood Foreign Press and Academy members: please take notice!
Another strong performance award goes to Bill Nighy, who provides most of the film's comic relief as aging rock star Billy Mack. He puts out a cheesy Christmas record and then publicly bashes it. But in classic Hollywood ending style, he does have an epiphany and realizes his wild musician life has been missing true affection.
Liam Neeson shines as widower Daniel who tries to help his young stepson win the heart of a popular school crush. Equally sweet is Colin Firth as Jamie, a man recovering from a broken relationship in France who falls for his monolingual Portuguese maid. You know what? This film is such an abundance of great performances that I will run out of space discussing them all! Everybody shines! My only cast complaint is that Rowan Atkinson should have been given more screen time.
What I also love about "Love Actually" is that Curtis doesn't, if you'll pardon the pun, wrap up each story in a happy little Christmas package. There are a few sad, realistic moments, particularly in the Karen/Harry subplot and in Laura Linney's turn as Sarah, an assistant who has waited so long to be with the man she loves. She realizes, in some of the film's key dramatic instances, that family matters are getting in the way.
All in all, Curtis has struck gold again, in tradition of movies like "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Bridget Jones' Diary." Yeah, some of the love stories may be a little far-fetched, but aren't they all in fantasy movie world? What matters is that they are sweet and not without their share of obstacles. This film is a nice departure from some of the more disturbing violent films as of late. But be warned: it is a little more adult than most other comedies in theatres. The innuendos, language, and nudity earn the R-rating. So see it without the young kids, but do enjoy.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
This is the perfect Christmas gift to get any member of the group of free-loading moochers you call your friends. It's the perfect excuse to have a movie night at THEIR house, and make them ante up some wine, cheese, grapes and lots of chocolate, then hunker down for an evening of cornball romantic comedy with a difference.

Chances are, with Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman on show, you won't even notice that the storyline is hardly Pulitzer Prize material, but you do stand the chance of busting a seam when Hugh does his Footloose/Saturday Night Fever/Risky Business impression at Lot 10 Downing Street, and Bill Nighy makes like Robert Palmer for a video shoot of the worst ever chart topping Christmas song. There's also the incomparable Rowan Atkinson, making like Mr.Bean at appropriately inopportune moments.

In case you think it's all about the guys (it is - but one can't take sides) there's a brilliant performance by Emma Thompson, and also Laura Linney, who has the worst cell phone ring tone ever invented. Keira Knightley is more "Bend It Like Beckham" than "Pirates of the Caribbean" in this one, feigning wide open surprise a little too often. She's cute though, even if I always get her mixed up with Natalie Portman, the Amidala girl.

There are enough love stories and love disasters here to sink a luxury liner - and yes, there are "Titanic" references too. Even though the couples are for the most part separate little stories, there's a connection running through the movie that really ties them all together.

The music is great, the movie is funny, and your friends will have to entertain you at their expense - what more could you ask from a movie? Did I mention it has Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman?

Amanda Richards, November 17, 2004
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 24, 2005
This movie has passion, tenderness, poignancy, and humor. You are exposed to people of different classes, ethnicities, and general backgrounds in order to take a closer look at what "love" is.

You see the arrogant ex-rock star (Bill Nighy) trying to make a comeback and any cost and is chubby but likeable manager who is always there to support him. There's a prime minister (Hugh Grant) who is torn about his feelings for Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), the inconveniently beautiful head of his catering staff. After going through a horrible break up, we watch a B novelist (Colin Firth) discover love while writing his novel in France. Then there are married couples, best friends, siblings, parents, and children. As you can tell, the cast is top notch. It's a veritable who's who of British Cinema and every part is played to perfection.

What this movie does is to show how we have incredibly human experiences that tie us into something deeper. Sometimes, there is incredible pain and loss when we fall in love--or out of love--but no matter what happens, love strengthens us and reminds us that we are alive.

The DVD is fabulous because there are tons of extras in it. I've had the joy of watching it all and I love it. If you like Sam and Daniel (the father and son), you'll love the full cut of their story. There is actually 8 minutes of Sam, most of which was not in the theatrical film. I won't give away what's in it, but that is my top pick of extras to watch from the DVD. There are also hilarious bits if you watch the version of the movie with audio commentary by the director and several cast members. Hugh Grant is particularly funny in this, particularly when he talks about Colin Firth! If you are a lover of soundtracks, there is also a good section where the director goes into detail about each of the primary songs he picked in the film and why.

If you enjoyed this movie, buy it!! It makes a fabulous gift and you can watch it over and over and still see something new or have a good laugh!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2004
Love Actually was one of my favorite films of the year.While some of the stories began to crumble around the edges near the end, it was never the less endearing and sentimental. Exactly the kind of film you want to watch around the holidays.
As much as I loved all the stories I dearly wish they could release a double disc with a toned down version. Even though I did enjoy the story with the couple who meets rehearsing for the actors in a porn movie, it spoils the potential to watch the film with kids and in my case, the older parents as well who would really enjoy everything else. A friend said they saw such a version on an airplane flight and it didn't take away from the pleasure of the film in the slightest. Ordinarily I would never make such a request of a movie. But this film is so delightful and would be a wonderful perennial family favorite (...). I'd watch the film as is for myself. But I would love to share it.
I think they would do well to make a rare exception in this case take advantage of the DVD format to offer a PG-13 cut without that storyline.This is a special movie, special case scenario, not a puritanical rant. I have heard others voice a similar sentiment. If this is the case for you maybe give this review a helpful vote to nudge the studio into releasing a special edition package. I am going to cross my fingers and wait and hope they release such a version in November.
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189 of 240 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 12, 2003
My rating is based on my enjoyment of this film. It has both major strengths and serious weaknesses, and as other reviews indicate has fostered very strong reactions, both positive and negative. Its format is somewhat disconcerting if you are not prepared for the methodology of the director. It contains nudity, profanity, sexual situations, and several situations that are very suggestive and some moviegoers may consider to border on the obscene. However, the situations that some people may consider offensive actually serve a purpose in developing the overall theme of the film.
Love, in all its manifestations - wonder, joy, pain, happiness, passion, grief... is the theme of the film. A very talented ensemble cast is utilized to tell several somewhat interrelated stories concerning the emotional lives of the various characters. The cast includes Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Kiera Knightley and Alan Rickman. There are also telling cameos by Billy Bob Thornton and Rowan Atkinson. There is one other essential element of the story, it begins five weeks from Christmas and there are several aspects of the various vignettes where the seasonal aspect is a crucial element.
One of the more interesting and complex stories involves Liam Neeson and his young stepson preparing for the funeral of his wife, which has been moving scripted by her prior to her death. As he subsequently tries to deal with his grief, he is worried about the fact that the boy is isolating himself in his room. He is surprised to discover that while his son is disconsolate at the loss of his mother, more importantly he is heartsick over his unrequited love for a girl with whom he attends school. As they concentrate on his son's dilemma and develop a plan to attract her attention, the dialog ranges from comic to quite profound. And, as the movie progresses to the time of the school Christmas pageant their story gradually becomes interwoven with several of the others. Some of the most hilarious segments are in another thread of the movie involving Bill Nighy as a washed up pop singer trying to recycle one of his old love songs as a Christmas record. He effectively caricatures the dissolute rockers who abused their bodies for too long with drugs, booze and sex. Yet in the end, the alternate humor and pathos of his situation are resolved in a very effective and quite emotional scene. In yet another thread, a scene with Emma Thompson listening to a Joni Mitchell recording and thinking about the "both sides" of her life and love is a real tearjerker.
So this is a roller coaster of laughs and cheap humor combined with real insights about love and the pain that it can cause. If you aren't living in a bubble, you will probably relate to the experiences of at least one of the characters to some degree and knowingly nod in recognition of the similarities of others to people that you know. It is arguable whether the message of the film would be better conveyed with a fewer number of stories examined in somewhat more depth, but I think the result is quite powerful. Lives which seem only tangentially connected turn out to have a profound influence on others, and we really feel that we have come to understand the characters that we have been watching.
My first difficulty with the movie is that the complexity of developing so many stories means that it is well over two hours long (with the previews and unconscionable ads we were in the theater for well over two hours). Second, the audience is introduced to a very large number of characters during a very short period of time, since all the stories are interspersed sequentially as the movie proceeds toward Christmas Day. Very few individual segments until the finale are more than three or four minutes in length. However, the disorientation that I felt at first from the constant scene shifts was offset by the fact that this technique was successful in keeping the audience very interested; the film actually seemed shorter than it was because of the constant action. So, it was fun while actually conveying a message at the same time. I also want to see it again, since this is the type of movie that I often enjoy more during subsequent viewings. I find that once I know the basic story line and the relationship of the various characters, I can then pay attention to a lot of the details that went were difficult to appreciate because there was so much constantly happening during the film. (In fact, as I was thinking about the film prior to writing this review a few such instances came to mind.) So, go see this film when you have time to relax and want to laugh and contemplate life for a few hours.
Tucker Andersen
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2005
What's most enjoyable about Love Actually, besides the terrific scoring (inventive use of pop songs to bridge from one story to the next) is the inspired casting. Along with wonderful comic bits from Bill Nighy and the actor playing Colin (those two alone were worth the price of admission), several gifted actors do themselves proud. Case in point: Sarah, hopelessly in love with a co-worker and emotionally strangled by caring for her brain-damaged brother, could have been a bathetic mess in the hands of anyone less talented than Laura Linney. I was also impressed with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, totally believable as a married-with-children couple who deal with each other comfortably on an everyday basis, but who are thrown for an emotional loop over an office romance. And Colin Firth (okay, I do have a teeny crush on this guy and am not totally reliable as a critic!) is the only actor I know who could convincingly sell the writer-loves-housemaid story.

What's less satisfying is the director's overreliance on his stock-in-trade story resolutions. Curtis always has to include a mad dash for the airport to get two characters together -- in this movie, there are TWO mad dashes -- and Prince Charming must always rescue Cinderella from a drab life with a dramatic flourish (in this case, two Princes, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant). Curtis uses his gimmicks with charm and skill, but they still feel gimmicky and one longs for more surprises.

Two other minor carps: (1) I am willing to suspend disbelief long enough to pretend that an 11 year old boy can learn to play the drums expertly in two weeks, but I refuse to accept that on the very night of the big show, he's still in his room learning the basics. (2) If Hugh Grant is cast as a P.M. in his late 40's or early 50's, for heaven's sake put a little gray at his temples or something. Grant looks 25 here, negating the intended older man/younger woman aspect of his relationship with Natalie and rendering Emma Thompson's greeting of her "big brother" late in the movie a little silly.

One final comment, not on the movie itself but about some of the reactions to it: I'm bemused by the postings that claim Curtis' casual use of interracial couplings represents some sort of P.C. gone amok. This demonstrates a complete ignorance of the British sensibility on race. Class differences are everything in British culture, NOT the black-white divide as is the case in America.

Those who see a "left-wing agenda" in a totally unpolitical movie like Love Actually could vastly benefit from learning something of other cultures and mores, as well as checking their own biases in the mirror.
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114 of 147 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 24, 2006

So here I am, a lonely voice in the minority here, but I just didn't love this at all, and think it's sloppy, average, and kind of insulting, actually. I was so disappointed, because I really liked "Notting Hill," and am a huge fan of "Blackadder."

The movie has some good points, and of course some absolutely fantastic actors and performances. But half the storylines feel cliched, smug, and rushed, while the other half are either unutterably depressing, unbelievable, or just plain insulting.

What I disliked the most was this really strong aura of sexism, and in kind of a nasty way (and I'm cringing to even write this, as I know it sounds oversensitive and all that).

But really: most of the men who are in love in this (Grant, Firth, the guy in love with Kiera Knightley, even the little boy) are in situations where they literally have yet to say 10 words to their dream girls. They just "love" from afar. But that's not love, that's lust, dudes.

And of course all the women who are adored are hotties (even down to the gorgeous miniature Mariah Carey the kid likes). Even Colin Firth's maid has to strip down to her undies, in a totally contrived scene, so that we can see that even this unlikely person actually has the body of a swimsuit model. (And that doesn't even count the idiot who goes to Wisconsin and promptly gets invited into a foursome by some idiotic but gorgeous (of course) model-type American girls. I kept waiting for this part to be a dream -- it's that jarring -- and was shocked it was actually supposed to be believable.)

And hey, everyone likes pretty people on film so no problem normally -- but when so many of the women seem to be subservient to the men -- the maid, the PM assistant, two secretaries, lumped in with some dumb-as-dirt US bimbos -- a pattern does kind of emerge. (Ever notice how almost ALL of Curtis's "romantic" storylines -- even in his other movies -- are about men who are in "love" with a woman they barely know?)

Add to this the constant fat jokes and the movie has a weird slimy undertone to it. Especially when most of these jokes are directed at a beautiful girl, the object of Grant's crush, who is just simply not fat at all. She's probably at worst a size 8. How does that make his attraction "brave" or unique as it is evidently supposed to be? Even her coworkers are cruelly cavalier about this (invisible) weight problem (and yes there's more name-calling), and when Grant visits her at home, what do we see but that the girl's father, too, calls her rude fat-girl nicknames.

I would get it, I guess, if she was actually fat, even in movie terms (like the chubby and still adorable Bridget Jones). But she's not. And then the movie has to end with yet another slew of really cruel fat jokes yet again, this time at a character's very heavyset sister.

I guess my point is, where is the love? What's so "love"ly about a bunch of guys lusting from afar, two desperately unhappy women, a little boy who is striving for the school hottie (to the extent that he -- AND Dad -- show no sign of missing his just-deceased mother at all).... etc.? Ironically only the porn stand-ins have actual conversations (and I actually thought their storyline was charming, if completely unbelievable -- same with Firth's - as well).

But on the flip side, Laura Linney's story is incredibly depressing and unrealistic to boot. In real life, there is simply no way this woman could not have (1) a normal romantic relationship, or (2) that a truly nice or deserving guy, as her crush is supposed to be, would not understand her need to take a phone call, or to cut short a date (if it is actually "love," shouldn't he be more understanding?). But instead this guy cannot even wait 5 minutes for her to finish a phone call to her ill brother -- she has to be doomed, dramatically, to an unhappy ending that is completely unbelievable (and a real downer of a message too).

If you look at all of the stories, the only one that is actually about love is the one about the aging rock star's realization that his most loved friend is his long-suffering manager. Most of the other stories were superficial to the point of caricature, and those that weren't, and that ironically actually featured interesting women, like the wonderful Laura Linney or Emma Thompson (both fantastic with the limited stuff they are given to work with) -- were treated to cruel and really depressing outcomes.

Even Alan Rickman's unpleasant and unworthy storyline is yet again simply about lust, for his transparently eeevil secretary. If this subplot had to happen, I would have been a lot more intrigued if instead we showed this man torn by real feelings for another woman -- not just "oh I'm in lust". (But nothing in the movie is that deep, so oh well.)

Again, all this would be fine except for the title. How is this the "love, actually" -- the love that's all around? All I see is a bunch of talented Englishmen embarrassing themselves over women they think are hot stuff, but that's it.

About the bookends with the airport (and monologue about 9-11) -- I don't mind the reference to 9-11 as some here do (I will always be touched by that memory of the English playing our national anthem the next day, in tribute), but I do think it has to be earned. And Curtis didn't earn it. He didn't write a movie about love being "all around." He wrote a sloppy, muddled and occasionally semi-funny movie about a bunch of highly professional men who spend much of their time gazing and drooling adolescently from afar. The families in the airports are deeper, more touching, more real, than any of Curtis's silliness (and that's unfortunate).

Anyway. It's cute on the surface. Fluffy and harmless, lots of pretty people, ancient pop tunes, happy-happy-joy-joy (and I know some of you are already pressing that "don't recommend" button on this review, mentally telling me to "shut up, it's just a movie" - LOL). But it's a little creepy too, a little depressing, a little sadder and meaner than it needed to be. Actually.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2004
How's that? The title covers everything I felt when I saw this film. Yes, there are too many storylines. Yes, the "porn stand-ins in love" story was tacky (not to mention the Brit going to get laid in the USA). Yes, Richard Curtis doesn't allow us to get to know the characters enough. BUT I know I saw myself in at least one of those stories, and I'll bet most everyone else will, too.
Perhaps Curtis didn't want us to get to know those characters too well, since it would allow us to separate ourselves a little too much from those we identified with. Using little more depth than merely sketching in some of the characters, we the viewers are able to recall ourselves in those similar situations. I found myself thinking more about the characters in the film long after it was over than I did when I was watching it for the first time.
Now, I doubt Curtis intended to be too terribly "deep" with this film, but like an onion, there are a lot of layers to peel off if one chooses to look at it that way.
I went to see "Love Actually" to see Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as husband and wife. The two of them did such a superb job of it that the "ho-hummness" of their marriage was actually quite riveting. Theirs was without question the most interesting of all the stories -- and the most real. Their story alone makes "Love Actually" worth viewing. I don't think you'll regret seeing it at least once, and I believe you'll find yourself drawn to seeing it a few more times to unpeel those layers.
Oh, and remember, onions sometimes make you cry....
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"Love Actually" is a delightful medley of seemingly unconnected love stories which come beautifully together in the end. This ensemble comedy features some of my favorite actors, and they all seem to be in top form in this feel good film which features "love" - romantic, platonic, unrequited, fulfilled, unspoken, impossible and even filial.

Colin Firth is fantastic and sexy as the cuckolded husband who runs off to France to escape his sorrows, and discovers a cure for a broken heart. Hugh Grant is a riot as England's bachelor Prime Minister whose mind wanders every time the teagirl enters his office. His middle-aged sister, played by Emma Thompson, is fearful her husband, (Alan Rickman), is having an affair with his vamp of a secretary. Laura Linney is a lovelorn employee of Rickman's, who just can't get it together to make a commitment. Liam Neeson is struggling to get a grip after the recent death of his wife and finds himself distracted by his delightful stepson's shenanigans. Bill Nighy is hilarious as an over-the-hill rock star who is re-releasing a song for the Christmas season and hopes it will hit Number One on the charts.

Director Richard Curtis, (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary), is an expert at putting together this kind of movie and he is certainly at his best with "Love Actually." I held off seeing this film while it was in the theaters, and even after it hit Blockbuster. I was fearful I would expire from an overdose of fluff and saccharine. I finally broke down...and, what a surprise! I really liked it - a lot!!

This film is set at Christmas time but it brings great cheer no matter what the season.

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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2004
Now, how many of us have actually experienced love in real life the way actors and actresses portray it in films? Love actually brings together a very potent mix of comedy and romanticism into its whole state of affairs. You get several situations in this film all of which are connected to love and that of course is the main ingredient. Set in the very English environment you get the best of everything. The characters are excellent on their own, from the prime minister of Britain to the lonely office girl downtown, to the fading rock star, love is simply all around. What makes this movie special is the down to earth element that simply decides to sell well. Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Kiera Knightly, Martine McCutcheon, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy and Rowan Atkinson all come together to deliver one excellent holiday movie, in a very long time, not to forget the excellent soundtrack to boot.
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