LOVE ACTUALLY
Richard Curtis


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Written & Directed by Richard Curtis
Universal Pictures, Rated R
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

LOVE ACTUALLY is a British romantic comedy anthology. The nine storylines feature a stellar cast and a naughty sense of humor. Sometimes raunchy and irreverent, this typically British style comedy written and directed by Richard Curtis (Bridget Jones Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral), runs two hours and thirteen minutes.

Juliet (Kiera Knightley) is getting married to Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Juliet can't understand why Peter's best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) avoids her, until she gets a glimpse of the video he made of her wedding.

Jamie (Colin Firth), a writer, runs off to Italy when he catches his girlfriend cheating on him with his brother. Hiding away in a villa by the lake, he falls in love with his new Portuguese housekeeper (Lucia Moniz), even though they can't speak a word of each other's language.

The cheeky new bachelor Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) develops a fancy for Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) the head of his catering staff at Downing Street. When the American President (Billy Bob Thornton) tries to put the moves on her the Prime Minister's jealousy nearly damages international relations.

The Prime Minister's sister, Karen (Emma Thompson), finds her marriage threatened by her husband's (Alan Rickman) randy, young secretary (Heike Makatsch).

American Sarah (Laura Linney) has a secret crush on the office hottie, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), but she is too shy to go after him.

Colin, (Kris Marshall) a love starved loser, believes his chances for romance will improve if he goes to America where his English accent will drive the women wild.

A recent widower, Daniel (Liam Neeson) struggles to deal with the loss of his wife as he guides his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) though the agony of his first crush.

John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) meet on the job as movie stand-ins for a porn flick. Posing naked in intimate positions as the film crew gets the lighting and cameras set, they try to remain casual and get acquainted with each other.

Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is hilarious as a burned out rock musician trying to stage a comeback with a cheesy remix of the song LOVE IS ALL AROUND, for Christmas. It's a song Mack readily admits is total rubbish, but he offers to sing it naked on Christmas Eve on live television if it reaches number one.

The film interweaves the romantic plots through the five weeks leading up to Christmas. Even with the extended viewing time, it rushes through the stories and abandons some, leaving them half told. There are several children in the movie but it is not suitable for children. It earns the R rating for nudity and sexual humor. I love the soundtrack, which accompanies many pivotal scenes in the movie with singers like Norah Jones, The Pointer Sisters, Joni Mitchell, and Kelly Clarkson.

I would have enjoyed the movie a little more without all the America bashing. The American President comes off as a sleazy bully who leaves his wife at home and tries to score with the Prime Minister's household staff. The American girls Colin encounters in Wisconsin are dumb blond nymphomaniacs. And the American office worker, Sarah, is rather pathetic and her story is never even resolved. Judging this film entirely by the heartwarming movie ads would be a mistake. It has some wonderful moments, but I came away a little disappointed.

 

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