El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Saturday, January 03, 2004


Written and Directed by Richard Curtis

If you don't like the predictability of a romantic comedy, you should take a pass on Something's Gotta Give because it has everything that you don't like about those films. If you want to see many shades of love and courtship, a better choice would be Love Actually, the directorial debut of Richard Curtis, the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, which I enjoyed, and Notting Hill, which I haven't seen.

Love Actually is a comedic, romantic movie comprised of many plotlines that show variations of love and courtship. They are all set in London the week before Christmas. Different stories have different tones, ranging from a completely silly look at lust to a more somber look at infidelity. The movie has a similarity to some of Robert Altman's work in that the plots and characters crisscross storylines.

The courtship sequences are light-hearted and fun to watch unfold. Two stand-ins on a porno meet and begin chit chatting. It's is a funny juxtaposition to see them naked and simulating sex while at the same time being nervous and shy in their conversation. In other stories we have a young 20-something Brit who plans to go to America where he believes he will do better with women than he has in London, an 11-year-old in love with one of his classmates who is soon transferring to another school, the prime minister develops a crush on his secretary, and a man staying in France falls in love with his maid even though they don't speak the same language. My two favorite stories were the man and woman who don't speak the same language and the 11-year-old boy.

We also get some looks at love that aren't carefree and easygoing but require work from the participants involved, such as a man's unrequited love for his best friend's wife, a woman who attempts romance while she has demanding family commitments, and a married couple dealing with infidelity. Lastly, there is a storyline about an old singer making a comeback with a remake of a love song that he hopes is going to go to the top of the charts for Christmas.

Not every plot is satisfying. The guy who goes to America is shown to have slept with at least three Wisconsin gals who pick him up at a bar. Since the guy told us this unbelievable tale, I had serious doubts that it happened, but no other hints were provided to verify or dispute his claim, so I wasn't sure what to make of it. The story of the man in love with his best friend's wife comes to a halt after he tells her he loves her, although Bob Dylan fans will appreciate the scene. She seems happy about learning this, but why and what happens next between them? It seemed an odd way to leave these characters. In the prime minister's story, there is a woman played by Martine McCutcheon who everyone refers to as being overweight from co-workers to her father. It's supposed to be funny, but I found it depressing because she's completely adorable and Hugh Grant thinks so as well. Moments like this are bothersome because I'm tired of being told that beautiful women are broomsticks with basketballs for breasts, which ripple oddly at certain angles from the implant.

The movie is well written. Even though I felt some storylines could have been cut, Curtis does a wonderful job of weaving them all together. He makes an inspired choice of having the movie begin and end with scenes of people greeting each other at airports. I can't think of a place that has more people experiencing love and joy on a regular basis. It was a relief to see that not all of the stories have a feel-good ending. The movie has a lot of laughs; not just jokes but humor derived from the characters and their situations. Some of the humor does fall flat however. At a nativity play there a number of animals, such as a lobster, whose presence is never explained. Just odd to be odd. The cast is superb and does a marvelous job with the material. Even the minor characters perform well and bring an authenticity to the world. The movie has something for both optimists and pessimists in regards to love, so it's sure to match your feelings towards the subject whatever it happens to be that day.