Not “Love, Actually”

26 Dec

After a surprising number of friends recommended “Love Actually,” with no prompting, Caitlin and I watched it last night. It was entertaining enough, I suppose, and I rooted for the little kid and the aging rock star and laughed occasionally, but walked away turned off by the whole thing. I genuinely enjoy a good rom-com, and even some bad ones. I adored “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (and even teared up at times), I watched every episode of “Sex and the City” (most were good, except for the voiceovers of Carrie’s columns and the movie was horrendous), and I even own “When Harry Met Sally” (the best rom-com of all time) and “27 Dresses.*

*This will be expanded upon in a future Chanukah post, but needless to say, Zack raved on and on about this movie long enough, to the point where I called him on it in the form of purchasing him this DVD. 

I’m a romantic at heart, and enjoy a good love story. This was not a love story. This was billed on Amazon Instant as “The Ultimate Romantic Comedy.” Hardly. It’s moderately worse than “27 Dresses” and far worse than “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” When it was over, Caitlin actually looked at me and said, “You look disgusted.” I kind of was*This is a love story? This is the love story of the last decade that makes girls’ ovaries explode? There were half a dozen “love stories” in the film and I found nearly all of them to be nothing more than infatuation and puppy love at its best, and deplorable adultery at its worst**.

*Me too, quite frankly. I kind of felt depressed after the whole thing was over, not really uplifted or moved in any way.

**Not to mention — if you’re looking for an incredible, romantic ensemble-cast film, try “Paris, I Love You” instead. That, my friends, is a beautifully imagined group of love stories for you, presented in unique and breathtaking ways.I guess the word I keep coming back to is love, since, you know, it’s in the title and all. There is no love in this film. There are a number of grand romantic gestures, but we are never close to anything resembling love here*. I figure I’ll break down each of the couples. We juggle a ton of characters in “Love Actually.” I remember almost none of their names, so will refer to them mostly by the famous actor that portrayed them and a description that will help you place who they were in this muddled, non-love film. Also, the picture should help. I’ll break each couple down into “Heartless Cheating,” “Bizarre and Forced,” “Puppy Love Infatuation” and “You’re Getting Married? Try Dating first…”

*I agree with this, and if anyone was really fooled into thinking real love was portrayed in this film — I don’t know that you’re looking for real love. Real love is a beautiful thing that moves you and completes you and takes you over, over a period of time. Not something so immature, selfish or lustful as what was portrayed here.

At this point, there will be a number of spoilers. I can’t fathom the type of person who chose not to see “Love Actually” for 8 years and then read this anti-“Love Actually” review and decided to see it, but wanted no spoilers, but I figured I’d say that I will describe the plot of the movie in excruciating detail. 

Heartless Cheating

  • The Cue Card Scene (Watch it here): This asshole named Mark films his best friend’s wedding and we can tell he’s butt hurt about something, but we don’t know what. When he shows the footage to the bride, Juliet, (how appropriate!) we see he’s zoomed in on her the whole time and that makes it clear he’s in love with her. I mean, there’s no way that just means he’s a perv, right? She even tells him, “I know you haven’t ever warmed up to me or whatever,” so it’s not like there’s a history between them. This asshole comes to her house on Christmas Eve, while she’s snuggled up to her husband, and tells her, through a series of cue cards, that she’s perfect, and he’ll love her until she’s ugly and dead. Then she runs into the street and kisses him. She’s married to his best friend, who we haven’t gotten to know, but he seems like a nice enough dude from what we’re shown*. This is romantic? We’re rooting for this? I found a YouTube clip of this scene cut to “Someone Like You,” but in her song, Adele is sad she can’t get with a guy she was clearly with before. This guy is just trying to bang his best friend’s wife. Big difference**

*This is symptomatic of the whole film, actually. We don’t ever get to know anybody all that well, making it incredibly difficult to care about any of these people, at all. Especially because, for many of them, what we do see is so trite, mean-spirited and/or shallow, it’s not likable anyway.

**Seriously, whose fantasy is this? Like, if I were single, yes, that kind of grand gesture from someone I was dating would be appealing. In this scenario, it’s kind of pathetic and, as Zack points out, awkward and creepy.

  • Alan Rickman, his wife (Emma Thompson) and his slutty secretary: Alan Rickman is more of a dick in this movie than he is in “Die Hard”. His secretary is basically a whore who lives to tell him she’s DTF*. Rickman seems indifferent, but still has a boner for her. Rickman tries to buy the secretary an expensive necklace while shopping with his wife and Mr. Bean makes it too hard to pull off. The wife realizes she didn’t get the necklace for Christmas and assumes he cheated. It’s not clear if he did. Yahoo Answers! has mixed opinions. See how he’s not closing his hand with the wedding ring around hers. He’s kind of on the fence, but it’s clear he wants to bang her and buy her stuff. Caitlin points out to me that the slut was later wearing the necklace, so you gotta think he banged her and gave her the necklace. Either way, Emma Thompson knows he had a boner for the slut and will be cold to him forever, so that’s going to end well for everyone. He never re-assures her or shows her much affection at all, honestly. I’d rather be married to Hans Gruber. It’s really unfortunate, because she was the most likable person in this film. Who’s feeling the love (actually)? 

*I don’t know what this means. But the secretary’s character is desperate and incredibly unappealing from a feminist perspective. Be better than that, woman! Just see how you allowed my boyfriend to write about you! 

Bizarre and Forced

  • That Hugh Grant love interest: Thin on substance, thick on fat jokes: I bet you’re wondering who that fat girl is next to Hugh Grant. Oh, you’re not? It’s weird that you’re not thinking that, because we’re told she’s fat half a dozen times*. It’s why her last boyfriend broke up with her and her parents even have a fatty nickname for her. It’s basically her defining personality trait, besides swearing a lot. Her relationship with Prime Minister Hugh Grant reminded me of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, but far less substantive and just as many fat jokes. (I read all of the Starr report, there are striking similarities, except instead of a BJ in the office, they kiss at a kids’ play.) They meet when she swears too many times and then he has her moved out of his department because he’s too turned on by her**. They rarely talk, but then when they’re finally “alone,” they kiss. On a stage. Oh, and he creepily tracked her down by knocking on the door of everyone within a block radius, which got a lot of odd looks, because he’s the Prime Minister and all. At least he didn’t call her fat like everyone else in the movie. Charming as always, Hugh.
*This is one of the more offensive parts of this movie. This actress is adorable and normal. Slender, even! It made me hate one of the more bearable story lines.
**Not quite. She’s moved because she shares an uncomfortable kiss with Billy Bob Thornton, the U.S. President. This part is VERY uncomfortable to me — it’s like a wink-wink, nudge-nudge boys’ club “it’s OK to use women this way!” moment that is never addressed, apart from the girl APOLOGIZING TO HUGH GRANT even though she is visibly shaken by the whole exchange/seems like she was inappropriately touched by the President. Ugh.
  • Laura Linney, the hot guy she’s scared to talk to and her crazy brother: Laura Linney’s boss (Alan Rickman) crosses the boss line by asking her how long she’s been in love with the hot guy in the office and then telling her that he knows she loves him*. When they go on a date, she jumps his bones as soon as he gets to her door after dinner, but allows coitus interruptus any time the phone rings. She has a cray cray brother whose needs she always puts above finally getting some. It’s doubtful the brother would have ever cared if she missed his calls since a) he calls her non-stop and b) he’s completely out of it and tries to punch her when she goes to visit him**. Regardless, there’s very little chemistry between these two and they can barely communicate except to say that they like each other. What a shame that she’s too into her brother’s issues to have a relationship. There was almost nothing there to not save. Not love, actually.
*Again, a situation where a woman in the movie is put in a creepy, sexually tense situation where she is WORKING. People. Disgusting.
**It is never clear what her brother is ill with, besides paranoia, and the way she calls him “my darling” all of the time makes the whole thing just weird and awkward. I don’t know if they were initially trying to fool us into thinking Laura Linney, too, was in a different relationship and she was contemplating cheating, and then, plot twist! she’s some kind of saint, but even if that was the point, there’s no payoff because she ends up without a relationship and then we never see her again.
  • Billy Mack and … his Manger? I really did enjoy the character of the aging rock star who called it like he saw it. His expletive-filled rants were hilarious and his lame song held the film together in an odd way, but why did he need a love interest? And why did that just amount to him telling his manager that he was fat, but he still kinda liked him. Not sexually or anything,  he just cared about him. That was necessary*.
*I actually did like this. I liked the idea of showing all different forms of love, and we really didn’t get much of that, apart from Laura Linney/her bro (which doesn’t even seem like love, so much as obligation), Liam Neeson and his stepson which is my personal favorite of the whole movie, and then this. Not to mention there were no gay couples, and the one interracial couple is trying to be broken up by a white dude. I don’t know what I’m supposed to take away from that, but the idea creeps me out.
Puppy Love Infatuation
  • The drumming kid and the girl he barely knows: This kid is pretty much the hero of the movie and rules at life, so I’ll be nice, but come on. He’s in love with a girl at school he’s barely talked to. It’s cute and all, and you totally root for him and love that he gets a kiss on a cheek, but this is the definition of Puppy Love. He wasn’t even sure this girl knew his name. That’s not love, actually*.
*The other part of this storyline that bugged me was — this kid just lost his mom. I’m not saying he should be depressed about that for the duration of the film, but c’mon. We basically just forget about that. It’s his MOM. And Liam Neeson is his step-dad! You gotta think that would affect a person. Still, this kid is adorable and just fun to watch for his doe-eyed expressions alone.
  • Colin, the god of sex: This loser decides he can get laid if he goes to America, because girls there get wet for a British accent. It’s true, and Wisconsin is a perfect destination. Jack Bauer’s daughter and her friends all wanna get all up on him after they make him pronounce a bunch of stuff. Do I even have to explain why these woo girls triple teaming “Colin, the god of sex” which he calls himself isn’t love? It was funny, but come on…*
*I don’t even want to really weigh in here, except to say whoever made this movie hates women.
You’re Getting Married? Try dating first…

  • A Stand-In For Love: This story is cute, but left me WTFing her “We’re getting married!” at the end. These have some sweet dialogue while they’re acting as stand-ins and having to simulate sex together and it leads to a date. The date ends with a goodnight kiss that reminded me of that virgin show trailer that may or may not have been a joke. This was one of the better couples, which means yes, they should have had a second or third date. But apparently they’re getting married. OK then*.
*I just want to say I think Martin Freeman rocks, and I cannot WAIT for him to be Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit. Otherwise, this storyline was a sort-of-funny shtick. That’s all.
  • Colin Firth and the Portuguese woman know one common language – Marriage: Colin Firth’s girlfriend has just cheated on him with his brother, and he soon moves on to pining after his assistant. They don’t speak the same language, but seem to be saying the same things without knowing it. How adorable. When he drives her to the airport, she tells him she’s going to miss his slow typing and terrible driving. It’s like that scene in “When Harry Met Sally” where he tells her he loves how particular she is, only in this one, she has to mime it and it’s not eloquent and she still leaves. Instead of staying in touch, they both learn each other’s language and then he goes and asks her to marry him in front of her whole family in a restaurant in broken Portuguese. This is by far the best relationship in the film, and that’s saying something. At least they spend time together and have affection for each other. Not sure it’s love or not, but they’ve shared one kiss and now they’re getting married? That can only turn out well*.
*I prefer Colin Firth and Bridget Jones (and I hate Renee Zellweger).
I like to wonder what will happen to movie couples after the movie ends. Things do not end well for Billy Madison and Veronica Vaughn, for one. She marries him and leaves him after a year or two with a large divorce settlement and he goes back to being an alcoholic. I don’t think things end well for pretty much all of these couples. And I couldn’t care less if it did. This is not love. It kills me to put it in the “love” category of this blog. It’s…Noooot loooove!
The reason I can back Zack up and say this is not love is actually because of Zack. (Warning: mush ahead.) Zack and I met in a very romantic happenstance sort of way that seems like it could almost be unreal. However — what came next was why we’re in love now. We went on dates. We shared histories. We talked about what we liked, and who we liked. We spent time with each other’s friends. We finally had spent enough time together and our friendship grew so strong that we both were able to say, “I love you,” after dating for just about a month (and we thought that was quick!) We continued to spend time together, went through some serious hardships and were each other’s rocks and shoulders when things got rough. We finally pulled the trigger and decided to move in together, at which point we had to figure out how that would work. It took a lot of creaking and grinding to get into a rhythm and fit our puzzle pieces together, but they were meant to fit together so before long, we were in sync. Now, when I think of Zack, I don’t just think of a passing lust or butterflies in my stomach when I see his name come up on my cell phone, still with the smiley face next to it, just as I entered it in when we first met. It is much deeper than that. He has completed a part of my life in a comforting, exciting and wonderful way that nobody ever has before. We are moving forward on a shared path, compromising along the way but also lifting each other up and supporting each other in our own individual interests and goals. That’s love, actually.

One Response to “Not “Love, Actually””

  1. anon January 21, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    No you don’t get it. It’s not supposed to be a romcom, it’s really just a movie about all different forms of love (family or romantic or even platonic) and you are supposed to feel a little bitter after watching it. It might be funny at times but in that awkward english humor that not everybody gets.

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