It Could Have Been BetterIt Could Have Been Better

Love Actually

I'm a sucker for sweet little movies. Put me in front of "Notting Hill" or "The Wedding Singer" and I break into an uncontrollable grin. "Love Actually" has many grin-worthy moments, but there were things that could have made it better. Herein are my off-the-cuff thoughts:

  • Eliminate extraneous plot threads

  • With nine (I think) different stories crammed into 135 minutes of running time, it's hard to care about every character's predicament -- and caring is a necessity with romantic comedies. The solution? Emphasize the positive, particularly the stories focusing on Hugh Grant's newly-elected, and newly-smitten Prime Minister; Colin Firth's language-impaired romance with a Portuguese housekeeper; Liam Neeson's quest to unite his young stepson with his one true love; and Bill Nighy's aging rocker looking for one more hit.

    And kill these: Laura Linney's longing for a co-worker; Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman's downhill marriage; Keira Knightley as an unattainable object of desire (named Juliet, of course); Martin Freeman and Joanna Page as porn stand-ins with a love connection; and Kris Marshall's English horndog looking for love in the U.S.

    Some of these storylines had glimmers of brilliance (Emma Thompson and Laura Linney both did the best they could with limited screentime), but ultimately they detract from the film's strongest segments.

  • Give them what they want

  • "Love Actually" intends to show all sides of love, including the bad stuff. Nice idea, but really, who cares? Stick to the sweetness. Spice it up with great actors, great dialogue and great timing and you've got two hours of top-shelf feel-goodness. I admire the attempt to examine the many shades of love, but clashing themes and emotions lead to squirming moments. Example: Rowan Atkinson's cameo as a finnicky jewelry salesman is meant to be funny, but it operates under a dark cloud because it's initiated by the deceitful desires of Alan Rickman's character. It's hard to be hilarious when betrayal is waiting in the wings.

    That's all I've got. Feel free to chime in with comments/criticism below. -- Mac Slocum

    Posted by mac at May 2, 2004 09:51 PM

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