Some good friends came over last night to join us in some delicious imperial stout (Thanks, Jarrod!) and our annual watching of Love Actually, the Christmas movie that most of us love and lots of us love to hate–a fairly successful situation for a movie that, while it uses Christmas as it’s framework is, as the title suggests, a movie about love in it’s myriad forms and configurations. It’s clear why I enjoy this film: I’m a sentimental sap, a sucker for pulled heartstrings–and this movie yanks on them by the dozens. I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised by the depths of antipathy that some other people project on this film, and even I have to admit that it’s more than the usual, toxic broth of cynicism, arrogance, ignorance and stupidity. A lot of the critics seem relatively intelligent. I’m not going to go too far into this, when it’s expressed so eloquently here:
Utter bullshit, of course. The title’s hyperbole speaks for itself: I’m pretty sure Love Actually is NOT the least romantic film of all time. “I Spit On Your Grave” and Mel Gibson’s Jesus Torture-fest come to mind.
After that, lets put on our Ad Hominem for a moment and wonder aloud what kind of moron confuses the convention of romance with the emotion of love. Romance is a mood, love is a feeling. Romance is an ideal. Love is, well, often far less than ideal–which is far often the best kind of love. Got it? This movie is about Love, actually. (get it? couldn’t resist). But I’m not the hero of this story. Another writer at The Atlantic took up the sword/pen and defended our noble movie with a patience and depth I couldn’t be bothered to find. Emma Green, you are the hero of the moment
I wrote this elsewhere, but it pales next to Ms. Green’s black belt defense:
It was Mao who said “kill all the intellectuals, right?” I am relatively confident that Christopher Orr, were he to attempt an improvement, would pen the most absolutely boring film ever made. The sheer audacity of servicing nine “love” stories–and this story is about love, not romance–requires a certain level of imagination that most of what is happening with these people is happening between the cuts–while the camera is focused on the other couples. Laura Linney and her beau, for example, are shown at the end of a long evening date, so contrary to their relationship being purely physical they’ve had time alone together, plus five years of workiing together and a shared mutual attraction–but the kicker is that the love story isn’t theirs; Linney’s character’s story is the love for her brother, the sacrifices she makes in her own life for him.
I’d argue that Firth’s character doesn’t fall in love when he sees his crush in her underwear, it’s clearly been building over their time together and is only fully realized when they jump into the cold, eel-infested pond and separately realize neither ended up there for practical reasons, but out of their growing affection.
As for the PM and the foul-mouthed staffer–I’m sure I’m not the only one who met someone, out of the blue, who just stunned them like a cannon shot to the sternum from the very first moment. It happened to me some time ago, and I recognized it as something weird and cool and magical and the kind of thing that is best left alone. I met a woman some years ago and quite unexpectedly found myself in a stammering, ridiculous fit of adolescent awkwardness even though I was well ensconced in a relationship with a fine woman who happened to be standing about 4 feet away at the time; for days afterwards my thoughts turned constantly to this young woman–in my circumstance, it manifested as intense curiosity, but had I been single (she was) I know, with complete certainty, that I would have been punted ass-over-teacups into a full-blown drive-past-her-house-repeatedly crush. I pity the critic for never having experienced this, nor even having the capacity to imagine such a powerful feeling.
I proud to admit that I’m one of the people who loves the crap out of this film–and yes, Bill Nighy is a major reason why. But I like it all. I like the stupid vanity/foolishness/delusions of the Alan Rickman character, the tone-perfect reaction to his selfishness from Emma Thompson’s character. I read this Christopher Orr article and what I realized was that’s it’s little more than a snobbish, verbose confession that the guy just didn’t get it. He’s virtually shouting it: “I missed the point completely! I just didn’t get it all! I’m obtuse as a moose! As dense as a dirty diaper! But boy can I show off my book-learnin’.” There’s also the possibility that Mr. Orr just never really felt or understood love, but that’s too sad to consider.