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‘Love Actually’ 4K UHD (review)

Universal

 

My big Christmas movie this season was 2003’s Love Actually.

Surprisingly, especially considering I’m an Anglophile from way back and this film stars many of my favorite British actors, I had never before seen Love Actually!

Plotwise…well, there are actually multiple plots, all somewhat intertwined at several points and all taking place just as a handsome new Prime Minister takes office at Christmastime.

In fact, the new PM (played by Hugh Grant) is, himself, one of the major characters, as well as the opening narrator.

We follow the PM as he quickly takes a liking to one of the young servants at Number 10.

We also follow Colin Firth as he slowly falls madly for his new Portuguese housekeeper despite the fact that they don’t speak the same language, Liam Neeson as a man dealing with his stepson after his wife dies just before the holidays, another geeky, awkward young man who knows he’s a sex god, if only women would notice him, and the late great Alan Rickman as a businessman whose employee comes on to him, even as he tries to hook up two other employees.

Rickman’s character’s wife is Emma Thompson, no relation, who is also the sister of Hugh Grant’s character. Liam Neeson’s stepson is in love with a girl at his school who is soon to leave for America. He attends the same school as Alan and Emma’s kids and Grant’s eventual girlfriend’s family’s kids. My favorites are the shy couple played by Martin Freeman and Joanna Page whose romance awkwardly blossoms as they drolly, nakedly, explicitly, but completely obliviously, mime actual intercourse as movie stand-ins.

The character I most related to was played by Andrew Lincoln—a man who is thrilled that his best friend is getting married but bites his tongue as he himself falls in love with the new bride, Keira Knightley. I can easily see that happening to me in that situation.

As complicated as all of that sounds, there’s also the underlying story of the aging rocker who is watching to see if his new Christmas single can make it to the top of the charts, even though he personally hates it. Bill Nighy cheerfully plays that part with deep cynicism and dark humor and his quest becomes a running gag throughout the picture, with a surprising conclusion.

The mostly British cast is charming, particularly Hugh Grant who just oozes charm throughout as the PM. Billy Bob Thornton, conversely, makes for a slimy unnamed US President. Rowan Atkinson pops up in two scenes where he almost seems to be influencing events on purpose, like an angel of fate. Something tells me his part was cut down.

At over two hours, it does seem a bit long for this type of movie as it is, although it never really drags much. The only sequence I didn’t appreciate was the geeky guy who flies off to America for a bizarrely unrealistic scene leading to an even less likely ending for his sequence.

Either I missed something or that whole bit just doesn’t make a lot of sense. There’s also a pointless cameo by a nearly unrecognizable Jeanne Moreau, one of the legends of French cinema.

Overall, though, everyone is attractive to look at and there are lots of very funny scenes. The music is well-chosen, too, especially a couple of Joni Mitchell songs and Hugh Grant amusingly singing a Christmas Carol!

Extras include commentary, music videos, deleted scenes, featurettes and making of doc.

Writer/director Richard Curtis has served up something more than a typical romantic comedy. Here we see love from many different angles—some pleasing, others painful. Love, of course, can be the single most painful thing in existence, depending on the circumstances, and the movie doesn’t spare us that. There are a number of scenes that had me tearing up for various reasons.

In the end, though, Love Actually is about not just romance but hope, and the final airport scene perfectly swings us back to Grant’s opening narration.

Booksteve recommends.

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