Mrs. Dr. Phil mentioned the other day we needed to have a little bit of Love Actually, which is a lovely little Christmas movie... in part. Actually, Love Actually is a complicated little piece with a cast of characters with many convoluted relationships connecting all the disparate bits of the story. Something like another Englishman's vision of love, Andrew Lloyd Weber's Aspects of Love, we have a story investigating many kinds of love, sometimes in a ways which would not necessarily work for many American audiences and -- this is key -- avoiding the saccharin necessity that everyone ends up happily ever after.
Please note this isn't a movie for children, despite children and families taking center stage in many of the elements. I don't want anyone hate-e-mailing me saying they took my advice for a Christmas movie and (literally) exposed their kids to unsuitable entertainments. Having said that, despite its British sensibilities about certain things, it remains a sweet film and not lowest common denominator prurient. Very un-American.
Christmas season is already in full swing at the first time hack, which is like 6 weeks to go. Without the restriction of the American Thanksgiving, it looks like London gets into things earlier -- don't give American merchants any ideas!
You'll Laugh, You'll Cry, You'll Cringe
The opening is incredibly unusual, thoughtful and done with a voice over which manages to mention "love" and "9-11" in the same breath without being maudlin or creepy.
In the first five minutes we are introduced to a wide spectrum of situations as vignettes. They aren't quite the usual holiday pap. Liam Neeson is just dealing with burying a beloved wife and has to raise a step who now has A Serious Problem. Alan Rickman is married to Emma Thompson who is the sister of Hugh Grant who is the new Prime Minister -- no really! -- but he (Rickman) is try to get Laura Linney to finally go after "Karl" while he (Rickman) is is being pursued by his secretary but she (Linney) is always talking to someone special on her mobile. And it hasn't even gotten complicated yet. Bill Nighy plays an aging rock star trying to make one last comeback with a Christmas single that's "pure rubbish".
What was that about Hugh Grant being PM? Impossible? Actually, I think he does a credible job, especially considering that he is up against Billy Bob Thornton as the President. Yikes!
So many good scenes, it's hard to decide which are best, but the proposal scene in Portuguese and the scene with the little girls demanding Christmas carols... or maybe it's the gift wrapping scene... Come on, get into the Christmas spirit with us!
Besides -- Kate Winslet makes an unusual appearance in this film, and as the finest actress of her generation, any Kate sighting is welcome. (double-grin)
Bring On The Food
Afterwards, it was too late to start another movie, so I started flipping through the channels. Food Network was just starting an hour of an Italian Christmas in food, with Mario and Giada. Mario is Mario Batelli and we've certainly seen this Giada woman before, but I was struck how much Giada could be the suave older sister of Keira Knightly, whom we'd just seen in Love Actually. We sat around and commented that both seem to have too many teeth, though Keira's are more pointy, like vampire teeth (Mrs. Dr. Phil) or reptile teeth (Dr. Phil). And it was funny that in the opening segment, making holiday raviolis in Boston, that Giada was wearing a sleeveless turtleneck like Keira did in the Christmas carolers scene. (grin)
As time went on, we realized that we must've seen this or part of this before. Especially when they joined Stanley Tucci's family for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Which still requires antipasto and a pasta course before the seven fishes. Yum...