LOVE ACTUALLY is promoted as the feel-good comedy for the holiday season along the lines of ABOUT A BOY and KNOTTING HILL, but don’t be deceived by the trailers and ads. This is a very adult comedy, and a disappointing one at that.
Hugh Grant plays the Prime Minister of England, newly installed at 10 Downing Street, but he is by no means the star of this star packed movie. LOVE ACTUALLY is a series of vignettes, such as: Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as a married couple dealing with temptation and infidelity; Keira Knightly as a radiant newlywed who finds her husband’s best man is in love with her; Bill Nighy as a washed up rocker with an awful new Christmas hit trying to regain stardom; Liam Neeson, who has lost his wife and is helping his stepson navigate his first love; AND MORE! Actually, one of LOVE ACTUALLY’s problems is that there are too many stories and far too much time between each one to really engage viewers.
LOVE ACTUALLY begins with the song “Love is All Around Us,” and the new Prime Minister (Grant) sets the story going when he almost immediately falls for an attendant Natalie, who enters his service shrieking the “f” word, very much like the opening of FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. From that moment, the audience is whirled into a cast of characters related (Emma Thompson is the Prime Minister’s sister) and not related, as they all negotiate relationships in their own lives. Alan Rickman, Thompson’s husband, is tempted by an office assistant who literally spreads her legs and dresses in a devil costume at a Christmas party to seduce him. Bill Nighy is very funny as an aging rocker, but much of his humor revolves around drug use and sexual bawdiness as he attempts to outdo England’s top band for the hit record of the season.
Two characters play body doubles for a porn production company and their scenes are among the raunchiest yet seen in a mainstream movie. Although they simulate sex, they are completely naked, and there are full and lengthy shots of breasts, graphic simulated sex motions, and nude fondling. It is shot for humor, as they are dispassionately portraying these scenes, but the explicitness is shocking and rather sickening. Even more shocking was the laughter of the movie audience around us.
Another character plays a young British gent who believes, if he goes to America, women will be wild about him (like Prince William). He ends up in a bar in Wisconsin, later having sex with four women simultaneously. As mentioned earlier, there are far too many stories, and the swelling music invites viewers to be touched time and time again, but there were a few vignettes in LOVE, ACTUALLY that had a good message.
Although Rickman’s character is tempted to betray his wife, writer Curtis treats the subject appropriately, showing the damage done all around in such affairs, and the way the story is handled upholds biblical truths about marriage. In another story, a young writer goes to France to work on a book and falls in love with his Portuguese housekeeper. Neither can speak the other’s language, and a truly sweet love story follows. Keira Knightly’s storyline also deals with fidelity in an appropriate manner. Daniel (Liam Neeson) has a touching relationship with his stepson and tries to guide him through his first big love, but, regrettably, the sexual banter and casualness between the two ruins what should be a father/son relationship. And, this story ends with a scene that is a real steal from ABOUT A BOY, making you wonder, just where are the new ideas here?
LOVE ACTUALLY could have been a nice Christmas movie, but it revels so much in raunch that it literally ruins itself. No one should see this movie without being aware and prepared for its graphic sexual content. For a better Christmas romance, try IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. It is still the best.
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(PaPa, RoRo, Ab, AP, B, LLL, SSS, NN, A, DD, M) Strong pagan worldview with strong Romantic content where main characters are driven by emotions and sensuality as many couples develop and/or attempt to get together on Christmas Eve, with Christmas depicted as being completely devoid of any spiritual meaning (a time to give or get what you want), absurd Christmas play put on by children (lobsters at the manger scene, Barney in the manger, etc., and vignette of president of United States as a political bully and sexually interested in Prime Minister’s aide, as well as two nice moral vignettes where characters decide to honor biblical relationships of marriage and not pursue their baser desires; very graphic and raunchy language 40 obscenities, heavy on the “f” word and 10 profanities; no violence; themes of adultery and extremely graphic and lengthy scenes of nudity and simulated sex including upper and rear male and female nudity and graphic sexual motions as two characters perform as body doubles for the pornographic movie industry; alcohol use at parties; illegal drug references; and, lying.