Love Actually works best as a glossy clip reel for screenwriter and first-time director Richard Curtis’s unused story ideas, but as a movie it’s thin and unsatisfying. This fairytale postcard to romance juggles multiple British stars (Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth) in multiple storylines, some more successfully than others, and in the end comes off like a landlocked episode of the Anglophile Love Boat, or better yet, Love British Style.
In the predominant story, an endearing Brit version of The American President, Hugh Grant stars as the Prime Minister who falls for a member of his staff. The Alan Rickman/Emma Thompson segment about a philandering husband who cheats on his wife rose above the cookie-cutter storyline by virtue of their great acting and chemistry. And Rowan Atkinson, as always, was a hoot in his all-too-brief bit as a department store clerk.
Each of these stories could have been fleshed out to full-fledged movies in their own right. As it is, they’re just episodes among many to bounce in and out of, including stories that are weaker and sillier, especially the segment starring Laura Linney as an American with a longtime crush on a co-worker.
Simple stories and made-for-TV dramatic structure should make this a good bet for DVD, but the script was so amazingly lackluster that after a while I began lamenting a good opportunity lost. The first-rate ensemble is wasted; neither the stories, the dialog, nor the direction offer anything remotely original.
And in an aside, what was with the inordinate number of references to “fat” women in this film? It struck me enough that I made a note of it afterward. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, coming from the writer who brought Bridget Jones to the big screen–twice. Blech. [***]