Monday, November 17, 2003

Love Actually is all around

Originally published in The Vanguard, the student newspaper of The University of South Alabama

To make a cake, you take a dozen separate ingredients, stir them together and add some heat. The result is a delicious treat everyone can enjoy. This is the recipe for the romantic comedy, "Love Actually." It takes several very different couples, (some romantic, some not so much) adds a lot of heat, and a delicious aroma of love fills the air. This holiday (cheese) cake should be served with Christmas dinner.

Starring a charming, winning cast of British and American performers, "Love Actually" proves that "love actually is all around," and you can find it in the most unusual places.

The story begins at Heathrow Airport, where people are greeting their loved ones during a voice-over by one of the characters. The audience does not know anything about the character, but it is unmistakably Hugh Grant's voice. He says the best place to find proof of love is the arrival gate at the airport.

He also says, "When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love."

This is the perfect way to set the tone for a movie about finding love in all situations.

It is later revealed that Hugh Grant is playing the new prime minister of England, who has an instant attraction to a member of his staff, who looks oddly like Monica Lewinsky but has the social "graces" of Bridget Jones. However, unlike the Lewinsky situation, the prime minister keeps professional distance and even moves her to a position of less proximity to him to remove the temptation.

Other notable relationships include Liam Neeson as a widowed man and his young stepson. He is trying to move through his own grief so he can help his stepson deal with the death of his mother. Of course, the stepson is also dealing with relationship problems, as he is experiencing love for the first time. He is desperately trying to catch the attention of a girl in his class, but the love is unrequited. Or is it?

One of the most amusing couples meet under rather unusual circumstances. They are stand-ins for the actors in a very racy movie. The scenes involving these two are quite hilarious, but are not for those offended by nudity.

The heartbreaking part of this movie is saved for its two most accomplished performers, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. Emma Thompson is perfect in the role of an older wife who fears her husband is cheating, and Alan Rickman is inspired as the lecherous husband who gives an expensive gift to a young, beautiful employee.

Perhaps the most romantic couple involves two people who cannot understand each other, literally. Colin Firth (Bridget Jones' Diary) plays Jamie, a writer who caught his wife cheating. He retreats to write his book and finds himself falling in love with his Portuguese housekeeper, who doesn't speak a word of English. The chemistry between them is undeniable and the climax of this story does not disappoint.
There are many other seemingly unconnected relationships going throughout the film, including a single British man who determines his soul mate lives in America because "they love [the British] accent over there," and a wonderful performance by Keira Knightly (Pirates of the Caribbean, Bend it Like Beckham) as a young bride who discovers something surprising about her new husband's best friend.

As the story progresses, the intricate connections between the couples are revealed, creating a somewhat confusing web of people. The confusion only lasts a moment, though because the interconnection is not the most important aspect of the film. The most important aspect, of course, is the presence of love in the most unlikely places. The film ends in just the right place, at the arrival gate of the airport with loved ones greeting each other.
The performances from all involved were charmingly sweet, making this an uplifting experience for moviegoers and a great holiday film. It is an entertaining bit of fluff from writer and director Richard Curtis, who also wrote the screenplays to "Notting Hill," "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Bridget Jones' Diary."

"Love Actually" is a film to see if you need to affirm that love actually is all around.

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