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"Love Actually"

Directed by Richard Curtis.
Written by Richard Curtis. 
Starring Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  11/13/03 

My friend Brett and I went to KFC tonight for an 8-piece meal; damn, I had truly forgotten just how good KFC is (with apologies to you, Anh-Van).  As we sat there in our booth, having dusted off the chicken plus four biscuits, gravy, and macaroni & cheese that looked shitty but tasted magnificent, Brett uttered a familiar phrase that I hadn’t heard since my regular days of hitting the KFC buffet back in Charlottesville:

“I don’t think I can breathe right now!”

Funnier than that?  Maybe you ought to check out this link, and wait for the pictures to scroll by.  I think you’ll recognize the guys in one of them:

http://www.mgdblackandgold.com/home.jsp


If you have known me for a while, you know one thing’s for sure:  I think the Boston Red Sox blow.  (There you go, Yac.)  You also know how much I hate romantic comedies.  I mean, hate:  strong, emotional dislike.

So, you are right to be stunned (since you are lagging if you haven’t already skipped to the bottom of this review) that I am giving the new romantic comedy-drama “Love Actually” an Opening Weekend.  I had to check to make sure, but I have never given a film of this genre the top rating before, so believe it when I say that I just loved this freakin’ movie.  Sure, I have at least strongly liked two other Richard Curtis projects, “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary.”  But, the writer/director has outdone himself here, creating a film that in my mind is as good as it gets when it comes to mixing predictable romantic scenarios with laughs that both men AND women can truly enjoy.

It doesn’t hurt that in a year of major casting coups and strong ensemble acting, “Love Actually” has absolutely the best cast of the year, and I would love to see the folks at Oscar eliminate that horseshit Best Animated Feature and instead create a Best Ensemble Acting category, much like the SAG Awards do currently.  By my count, this film has at least 11 actors and actresses that have had top billing on at least one other film...TOP BILLING!  And, that doesn’t even include Keira Knightly, who has not officially had top billing on a film yet, but I’m sure that will change sooner or later.  It must be easy to score such a great cast with such an excellent script, which is the real strength of the film even if the actors are all very good in their parts.  Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman are all predictably solid; it is the parts with Bill Nighy as singer Billy Mack, and Martine McCutcheon as the assistant to the Prime Minister that really shine, as well as Thomas Sangster as Sam, the 10-year-old son of Neeson’s character who is sure he is in love.  Even better is Kris Mitchell as Colin Frissell, God of Sex.  Seriously, every time he came on-screen, there is laughter.  Hearty laughter.

The film is quite long (almost two-and-a-half hours) but it flies by since there are about seven different stories going on at the same time with these characters.  Curtis weaves the narrative beautifully; at times he rotates from couple to couple in consecutive scenes, and other times, he sticks with characters for three or four scenes at a time.  This works well as we watch the Prime Minister (Grant) fall for his assistant, or Rickman’s character has flirtations with another woman named Mia (Heike Makatsch) while trying to work around his wife (Emma Thompson).  Even minor subplots that only have four or five scenes, notably one branch where two soft-core adult film stand-ins slowly fall in love, work quite well.  (It’s amazing to have seen so many films and never see a plotline where stand-ins fall in love; so simple, yet so creative.)

Love the soundtrack.  Love cameos by American stars.  Love little kids dancing.  Love feel-good movies that actually feel good.  Love it, love it, love it.

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09