Love Actually

Posted on December 22, 2008 at 8:00 am

A
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language
Profanity: Some very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drug humor, drinking and smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Some tense and sad scenes
Diversity Issues: Stong, loving diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2003
Date Released to DVD: 2004
Amazon.com ASIN: B00005JMFQ

“Love Actually” is as stuffed with goodies as the Christmas stockings for those at the very top of Santa’s “nice” list — and it is just as entertaining, too.

You say you like romantic comedies with gorgeous stars, witty dialogue delivered in swoon-worthy English accents, and oodles of happy endings? This movie gives you ten at once. And yet none of the stories ever feels hurried or incomplete.

The interwoven stories all take place in the weeks before Christmas and cover many kinds of love, touching, tender, sweet, charming, funny, and bittersweet. They include a Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who is drawn to the outspoken girl who delivers his tea, an eleven-year old (Thomas Sangster) who wants to attract the attention of the coolest girl in school, a man in love with his best friend’s new bride, a waiter who is sure that all his dreams of romance will come true if he goes to America, a thoroughly married man (Alan Rickman) whose flirtatious secretary is making him wonder how thoroughly married he is, a rock star (Bill Nighy) angling for a comeback with a cheesy Christmas single, a heartbroken writer (Colin Firth) who can’t stop thinking about the woman who cleans his house, even though they don’t understand each other’s languages, and a couple who meet at work as movie stand-ins assigned to increasingly (and hilariously) more intimate poses.

Richard Curtis, who wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill for the first time directs his own screenplay with heart and style. It helps, of course, that he has a dream cast, including newcomer Sangster, a real-life cousin of Hugh Grant and already a first-rate actor and a knock-out screen presence. Each of the actors creates complete, endearing, vivid, and vulnerable characters that we will remember long after we have forgotten most “stars” who spend two full hours onscreen in the latest multiplex fodder.

The movie begins with the Prime Minister musing on the arrivals section of the airport and the love everywhere as people are reunited with those who are most precious to them. This theme continues with a faded rock star (the magnificent Nighy) recording a silly Christmas version of “Love is All Around” (also featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral). But other themes just as important can be summed up somewhere between the words of W.S. Gilbert — “Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady” and a celebration of what one character not unhappily calls “the total agony of being in love.”

This is a movie about taking big chances (both hopeful and hopeless), about making big gestures to show our love, and about big, big feelings that may make us crazy and miserable but remind us that we are alive and why we are alive.

For one man and woman, the inability to communicate in words may be what allows them to sense how much they really belong together. We see in subtitles what they really want to say to each other, but more important, we see on screen what they say to each other with their eyes and the way their breathing changes when they look at each other. Other couples both speak English but still somehow cannot find the words to let each other know how they feel. One ardent soul reaches out through music. Another…just reaches out. Characters also grapple with non-romantic love, including parental, sibling, and deep friendship. They grapple with temptation and conflicting loyalties. And all of them carry our hearts with them.

In addition, any movie that manages to include a child dressed as a Nativity lobster, a Bay City Rollers song played at a funeral, love-emergency lessons in both drums and Portugese, and Hugh Grant dancing through the halls of 10 Downing Street to the Pointer Sisters is worth seeing at least twice.

Parents should know that the movie’s R rating comes from some very strong language, sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations, including prostitutes and adultery. There is humorous nudity when stand-ins for what appears to be a soft-core porn movie chat politely as they are posed in increasingly intimate positions. A character’s history of sex, drugs, and rock and roll is played for humor. There are some tense and sad scenes. Some audience members may object to the portrayal of the American President (Billy Bob Thornton) as a crude bully. One of the movie’s many strengths is its matter-of-fact portrayal of loving inter-racial friendship and romance.

Families who see this movie should talk about how the characters handle their feelings of loss, longing, and fear.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Curtis movies as well as classic romantic comedies with more emphasis on romance than comedy like “Moonstruck,” “Roman Holiday,” and “The Philadelphia Story.”

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Quiz: Christmas Classics

Posted on December 19, 2008 at 8:00 am

1. What Christmas classic features sibling rivalry between two brothers, the sons of Mother Nature?
2. What Christmas classic features the Island of the Misfit Toys?
3. Who is repeatedly told, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
4. Mr. Magoo stars in what re-telling of a classic Christmas story?
5. Which Christmas classic features an old top hat with some magic in it?
6. What Christmas classic features two performing duos who put on a show at a snowless ski resort?
7. Which Christmas classic features a cop named Bert and a cab driver named Ernie?
8. What book filmed at least three times begins with a character saying “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents?”
9. Who sings to her sister, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?”
10. Who gets sent to the attic bedroom after a fight with his brother about pizza?
11. Whose boss gives him a “jelly of the month” Christmas gift?
12. Which version of “A Christmas Carol” has a very appropriately named “actor” in the lead role?

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Holidays Quiz

Remember the Night

Posted on December 13, 2008 at 10:00 am

Preston Sturges wrote and directed some of Hollywood’s greatest comedies, specializing in wickedly sharp satires like “The Lady Eve” and “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.” But the first of his screenplays to be produced was this bittersweet Christmas romance about a beautiful shoplifter (Barbara Stanwyck) and a tough prosecutor (Fred MacMurray) (they also co-starred in the film noir classic “Double Indemnity”). He realizes that if he allows her to be sentenced just before Christmas the judge will be lenient. So he ends up bringing her home with him for the holidays. She sees in his family the kindness and generosity she never had as a child and he sees her true spirit bloom when is she treated with respect and affection. It is not available on DVD but will be broadcast on Turner Classic Movies three times this month: Dec 13, 06:00 PM, Dec 24, 11:15 PM, and Dec 25, 06:15 AM.

Remember the Night at LocateTV.com

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Classic Holidays Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families Rediscovered Classic Romance

The Holiday

Posted on December 3, 2006 at 3:54 pm

Amanda (Cameron Diaz) has a successful business cutting up new Hollywood releases into three-minute trailers that make the films look as enticing as possible. Writer-director Nancy Meyers essentially cuts up classic romantic comedies and reassembles them for modern consumption. The result is glossy fluff entertainment like What Women Want and Something’s Got to Give. They’re pretty to look at but they dissolve like cotton candy.


Amanda and Iris (Kate Winslet) find themselves with broken hearts just before Christmas. On impulse, they both go online and end up swapping homes for the holidays. Iris goes to Amanda’s glamorous house on movie star row in Los Angeles and Amanda ends up sliding around on high heels along the snowy road to Iris’s picturesque little cottage in the English countryside. And who should come to their doors but Jude Law as Graham, Iris’ brother, tipsy and looking for a place to sleep it off, and Jack Black as Miles, a soundtrack composer.


It’s hard to say whether the movie is being meta in its movie references (an old-time Hollywood screenwriter from next door gives Iris a must-watch list of classic romantic comedies and Amanda’s trailer for a Lindsay Lohan action film is one of the highlights), or just unimaginative and derivative. Probably a little bit of both. Too often, it is so formulaic you can see the little index cards — MUST HAVE: adorable guy with an English accent who is misunderstood and turns out to be even dreamier than we first thought; completely unnecessary romantic dash through the snow; character who announces that she can’t cry and so must then cry; cad who broke girl’s heart beg her to come back so she can turn him down, check, check, check. Oh, and just to make sure, let’s pick the safest, most predictable, guaranteed heart-tugger songs on the soundtrack. Even the delectable Diaz can’t make some of the behavior in this film feel anything but tawdry. There are some logistical impossibilities that will jar even the most beguiled of audiences out of the movie. It’s worst failings are its smugness about its own charms, unwarranted banner of female empowerment, and phony sincerity. But the stars and settings are undeniably appealing. If it is as synthetic and insubstantial as a Kinkade Christmas tree ornament, it is as pretty, too.

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy some of the classics recommended for Iris, including The Lady Eve and His Girl Friday, plus Holiday, a movie in the same genre also set around New Year’s Eve and with a title that might have inspired this one, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. They will also enjoy Love Actually (very mature material) and Nancy Meyers’ other films, What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give.

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Comedy Drama Holidays Romance
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