To honor the 10-year anniversary of a movie that has ascended to "holiday classic," feuding critics at The Atlantic are slicing and dicing Love Actually. Christopher Orr says the movie trashes the whole idea of love with a parade of superficial relationships. Emma Green says the patchwork of couples represents all types of love fairly and realistically.
After reading both reviews, along with a flurry of media reaction, I feel more confident than ever in my response to Love Actually: People who love Love Actually and people who hate Love Actually never will understand each other.
If you haven’t seen this movie, you may have high hopes. Bill Nighy + Emma Thompson + Alan Rickman + Laura Linney + Colin Firth + Keira Knightley + Liam Neeson. Just hear those award nominations jingling, ring-ting-tingling. And there’s Christmas! And England! And love! How could anyone be less than charmed? Or at least entertained?
I hated Love Actually.
Several important people in my life adored it: my brother, my mom, my BFF. Each of them looked positively stung when I confessed I didn’t like it. When they said they loved it, I wondered, "Do I know you?"
The movie follows 10 relationships. There is a man in love with his best friend’s bride, a jilted writer crushing on his Portuguese maid, a widower and his stepson, a middle-aged smartypants husband drifting from his middle-aged smartypants wife, some porn body doubles, a washed-up pop star, a sad lady, a dead lady, the Prime Minister, and Milwaukee.
All in a little more than two hours. Not a lot of time to develop 10 "plots."
Green says that’s fine; it’s how the movie presented a well-rounded collection of love-ish relationships. Green draws parallels to C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, which catalogues different types of love. Love Actually demonstrates affection (as Sad Lady Laura Linney shows her mentally-ill brother), friendship (as between the old singer and his manager), and eros (like how the one guy falls in love with his maid, despite a language barrier, because she took off her clothes and jumped into a pond).
Well, I can’t dispute that a movie about a lot of different relationships covers a lot of different relationships.
Christopher Orr *kind of* explains my dislike, but he seems mostly offended by what he sees as the movie’s desecration of love: that it’s all about lightning bolts of (mostly physical) attraction and skips over the journey — love’s development and the work to keep it alive.
Nah, that’s not it. To me, the journey’s absence doesn’t signal a lack of real love so much as the lack of a plot. After two hours and 10 sub-plots, my head should be spinning. Instead I feel like I spent two hours watching people stand still. There just isn’t time to see most of the characters go through much of anything believable, and the one sub-plot that works (Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson’s) only gets like 15 minutes.
But, fans protest, the self-sacrifice of Laura Linney! The little boy whose mom died! Keira Knightley’s adorable hat! Colin Firth, once again, in a pond! <-- HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE THIS?????
While you stand in disbelief of my boredom, I stand in disbelief that anyone could watch this movie 40 times, call it a "holiday classic," or (gutpunch) introduce it as the Christmas Eve replacement for It’s a Wonderful Life.
Yes, I’ve seen it happen.
Usually I can understand how other people really enjoyed movies I don’t like. But this one eludes me. It’s like we saw different movies.
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