Audiences can start celebrating a little early as the holiday-themed romantic comedy “Love Actually” weaves its spell over moviegoers. Writer/director Richard Curtis’ romantic comedy can honestly, truthfully, and without hesitation be labeled ‘the romantic comedy of the year.’ In a year practically devoid of romantic comedies, that’s not exactly a tough title to claim. However, “Love Actually” is utterly charming, irresistible, and all those other accolades usually launched at a cute, fluffy, romantic comedy, so it deserves the label - and not just by default.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out screenwriter-turned-director Richard Curtis has a deep affinity for love stories. It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to decern the screenwriter of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” feels very comfortable working with romantic leading men Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. With a cast as large as this one, maybe it’s a matter of creating at least a little comfort zone from which Curtis could direct his first film. Or maybe it’s that women love to see Grant and Firth in romantic roles and Curtis takes pleasure in giving audiences what they want.
“Love Actually” stars a splendid ensemble of British actors and one lonely American (Laura Linney). The complicated love lives of seemingly random couples are examined with both tenderness and humor. Curtis created so many enchanting storylines within the film, each equally deserving of mention, that he's put this reviewer in a sticky situation. Each and every character is worthy of attention but unless you’re willing to read a 3-page review, a simply summary of the various romantic liaisons is about the best I can offer.
One of the key scenarios involves the newly elected Prime Minister who is caught off-guard by his immediate attraction to a pretty member of his staff. Before you start with the inevitable comparisons to a recent past U.S. President, it’s important to know that the Prime Minister is a bachelor, and a very respectful, self-possessed one at that. And speaking of past U.S. Presidents, there’s a cameo appearance by Billy Bob Thornton as America’s Commander in Chief, complete with the requisite raging libido.
There’s also a writer who learns the international language of love after his significant other unceremoniously dumps him, a couple of movie stand-ins who discover each other while performing naked, a beautiful bride who learns her new husband’s best friend would love to love her, a mousy office worker who pines away for a hunky but shy co-worker, a father who teaches his young son to always follow his heart, a married couple going through the heartbreak of an office affair, an aging rock star unafraid to speak his mind and act like a fool to sell records, and a determined bachelor who believes the only way to meet women is to travel to America and charm all the gorgeous supermodels with his British accent. Throw Rowan Atkinson into the mix as a persnickety sales clerk and voilà, everything comes together in a perfect blend of comedy and romance (good thing since this is a romantic comedy).
Curtis has populated his cast with actors who genuinely embrace their characters. No one actor stands out as everyone involved is equally terrific. You’d never know “Love Actually” marks Curtis’ debut as a director. Working from his own script, Curtis has created a joyful, entertaining date movie that’ll leave you with a smile on your face and an almost irresistible urge to hug somebody.
"Love Actually" was directed by Richard Curtis (cast and crew list) and is rated R for sexuality, nudity and language.