Talk about a "chick magnet" film. My Fair Lady, myself, and a small crew saw this when it first hit theaters and haven't watched it since. We threw it in the queue recently and screened it again this weekend. I find it endlessly amusing how the British film community seems to appear entirely (well, if you exclude Maggie Smith) at some point in this movie. Between this and the Harry Potter series, I'm convinced the British film community is composed of only 20 actors who intermingle across all film genres.
Love Actually is a series of vignettes whose collective point is that love is all around us. With anything like this, some stories are better than others and the majority of my enjoyment came from watching Liam Neeson's recent widower bond with his new step-son. One of the deleted scenes in the extras actually makes their relationship all the more poignant while still being absolutely hilarious. The kid's reactions to falling in love at the age of 10 are funny, but it's the chance to see Neeson (a notorious stiff) actually cut loose and enjoy himself. The two of them have so much fun bouncing off each other that I would have been perfectly happy had the film focused entirely on these two.
Hugh Grant's story finds him as the newly elected prime minister and his comedic relationship with his new assistant. Grant is both funny and charming without resorting to any of his normal ticks, and his character is better off for it. After he loses his assistant and tries to find her on "the world's longest street" the sequence becomes one long sustained belly laugh. The more doors he knocks on the more frustrated he gets, and it's to the writers' credit that they have a unique surprise behind every door.
The Alan Rickman-Emma Thompson story of a marriage that's fallen into the abyss of commonality strikes the harshest emotional chords with Thompson, as usual, at the top of her game. Her personal breakdown late in the film is extremely tough to watch because she allows herself only a few minutes to completely shatter before she has to be back together for her childrens' school play. It's a devastating moment that Thompson absolutely nails. She also belongs to the best of the deleted scenes which involves her son, her school's administrators, and her son's Christmas wish. I shall say no more other than I completely lost it when she had a word with her son about what he'd written.
The rest of the stories circle around these primary three and the best of the rest involves Martin Freeman and Joanna Page as stand-ins for a porn film, and Colin Firth and Sienna Guillory as a cuckold and his Portugese housekeeper. There is a solid intimacy between these two couples as we see their relationships on a sort of highlight reel as they meet, talk, get to know one another, then fall in love. If you're looking for a solid date movie that wears its heart(s) on its sleeve, then this is definitely a good choice.
Oh, and this film was my introduction to the great Bill Nighy who brilliantly plays aging rock star Billy Mack. To say any more about his story would be a disservice to its hilarity. Cheers.