Originally published December 18, 2013. Love Actually is streaming on Netflix.
We open in a fucking airport. A fucking AIRPORT!!! Of course Love Actually, the apex of cynically vacant faux-motional cash-grab garbage cinema would hang its BIG METAPHOR on the bleak, empathy-stripped cathedral of turgid bureaucracy known as "the airport." Of course. And then, of course, Hugh Grant's voice pipes in to tell us how inspiring and magical the airport is, because when you're at the airport you can't help but notice that "love actually IS all around." THE FUCKING AIRPORT!!!!!
If that's not the epitome of unexamined privilege—declaring that the airport is your favorite place—then I don't know what is. Welcome to Love Actually.
Bill Nighy and his technicolor dream-blouse are in the studio recording a shitty, vapid Christmas song in hopes of squeezing a few dollars out of idiots who will pay for any tatty garbage as long as it has a celebrity's name attached (way better metaphor for your movie than "the airport," BTW!). Bill Nighy keeps ruining perfectly good takes so he can yell about how shitty his shitty Christmas song is, because Bill Nighy doesn't care about the valuable time of the hardworking professionals who are just trying to finish his vanity record so they can get home to their families. Not Bill Nighy's problem! He's done heroin before!
Question: Can somebody please adjust Bill Nighy's microphone so he doesn't have to cop that weird squat anymore? I should be able to watch a movie without my brain being forced to contemplate the current dilation of Bill Nighy's butthole. Thx.
Text appears on the screen to alert us that it's five weeks before Christmas. Why are you recording a Christmas single FIVE WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS!?!? This movie is so fucking incompetently made that even the people doing their fake jobs inside the movie are incompetent.
Colin Firth's girlfriend is sick. NBD, right!? WRONG. Turns out, she isn't sick with the flu—she's sick with ColinFirth'sBrother'sDongitis! Colin Firth cannot deal, so he runs off to France all sulky to fucking type a novel on a fucking typewriter in a mansion. Siiiigh! "Alone ah-GAYN!"
This old French woman shows up at Chateau de Firth and is like, "Here, I found you a lady. I'm literally giving you this lady." Score! Free lady! The lady is named Aurelia and she only speaks Portuguese, and so does her entire family, apparently, even though all of them live in France. It's irritating.
Colin Firth falls in "love" with Aurelia at first sight, establishing Love Actually's central moral lesson: The less a woman talks, the more lovable she is.
None of the women in this movie fucking talk. All of the men in this movie "win" a woman at the end. This goddamn movie.
Liam Neeson is bummed out because his wife just died. This storyline is uncomfortable because just six years after he filmed these scenes Liam Neeson's real-life wife actually tragically died. I kind of feel like having to watch Liam Neeson goof his way through this vacant, sentimental pap is insulting to the memory of Natasha Richardson. I also kind of feel like Love Actually did that on purpose, somehow, using time travel and/or necromancy. I'm against it.
The grief-stricken Liam Neeson calls up Emma Thompson, who I guess is just some woman he knows (relationship NEVER EXPLAINED), to talk about how sad he is. Emma Thompson is Love Actually's resident female-personality-haver, which means that she's totally nice and bland 95% of the time and then every once in a while she'll say something horribly caustic and inappropriate and out of character. You know, like normal regular human woman who is not robot!
Emma Thompson tells Liam Neeson that she's obviously "terribly concerned that your wife just died but anywayz bye, LYLAS." Later, she tells him, "Get a grip. People hate sissies. And no one's going to shag you if you cry all the time." Oh, she's just terrifically naughty, isn't she? (Don't worry, though! She'll be PUNISHED LATER FOR HER INFERNAL PERSONALITY.)
Some fucking guy is running around throwing sandwiches at people and asking female office workers if they want his "lovely nuts." It's possible that he says something important, but I couldn't tell you because the music is louder than the dialogue because #competence.
Oh, looks like his name is Colin, and he's terribly terribly oppressed because no ladies want to sit on his ginger ween (idea: could it possibly be because you wear a shirt that says "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and call complete strangers "my future wife" in a professional setting and then whine about not receiving immediate intercourse?). Colin decides to go to America in order to locate skanks. This is his entire plotline.
Hugh Grant plays the role of "horny prime minister," which raises the question: What percentage of Americans believe that Hugh Grant literally is the prime minister and/or boy king of the UK? I'll bet you the number is not zero, and that is why we should all probably eat poison.
It's Hugh Grant's first day on the job, and he's saying hello to his new staff. One staffer is named Natalie, and as far as I can tell, her job is "woman." She's also incredibly, disgustingly fat, like a bean bag chair with feet, according to literally everyone else in the movie who apparently all have Natalie Dysmorphic Disorder (the silent killer). Natalie accidentally says some swears in front of the prime minister, and then she makes lemon-face for 45 minutes. Actually, she's probably just thinking about delicious lemons, because NATALIE HUNGRY!!!!!!!
Right after this screen-grab, Natalie eats that crone.
Hugh Grant falls instantly in love with Natalie, which is understandable, because she hasn't yet exceeded her Love Actually attractiveness word quota. (Twenty-seven. The quota is 27 words before you become Emma Thompson and must be destroyed.)
Keira Knightley is marrying Chiwetel Ejiofor while wearing some sort of terrible hairy cardigan. In the middle of their wedding, the best man reveals his "big surprise" (and no it's not his penis...kind of): He arranged for a giant choir/marching band to interrupt the ceremony that Knightley and Ejiofor carefully, painstakingly planned to celebrate their love, in order to undermine their relationship and attempt to steal the bride for his own ON HER WEDDING DAY.
HEY. DUDE. YOU'RE A DICK. THIS ISN'T ROMANCE, IT'S SOCIOPATHY.
Also, why did nobody notice those 17 strangers with saxophones taking up half the audience? Fuck these people. And fuck Laura Linney for wearing her woolly hat during a fucking wedding ceremony in a fucking church. Have some respect, Linney.
Meanwhile, on the set of a movie that is supposedly not a porno but also apparently doesn't contain anything other than fucking, Martin Freeman and a blonde lady named Judy are simulating intercourse. The blonde lady has to take her top off so that Tony, Colin's best friend, can light her nipples.
Seriously, wasn't that guy JUST AT A WEDDING!? Like, 12 seconds ago?
Yes, that's him. Wearing a different outfit. Twelve seconds ago. Hanging out with Colin backstage at the Knightley-Ejiofor nuptials, because Colin is both a sandwich deliveryman and a caterer. This is either horrible editing or a deliberate trick to make white people feel like they can't tell black people apart.
Also, is there only one building in London? Is that what's going on? WHY ARE THE WEDDING AND THE FUNERAL AND THE PORNO ALL IN THE SAME WEIRD MILLIONAIRE CHURCH.
Anyway, then Tony asks Martin Freeman to massage Judy's breasts. "For the lighting."
Alan Rickman calls his employee, Laura Linney, into his office to talk about whether or not she "loves" her coworker, Karl. Because apparently she's just constantly sitting around staring at Karl behind a veil of silent darkness because everyone in this movie is a fucking creep.
RUN LIKE THE WIND, KARL. RUN AND NEVER LOOK BACK.
Alan Rickman tells Laura Linney that "the time has come to do something about it." Like touch his genitals in the break room, I guess. Um, sorry, WHAT KIND OF BUSINESS MEETING IS THIS? Was the working title of this shit Hostile Work Environment: The Movie?
In keeping with that theme, Alan Rickman's secretary is just constantly pointing at her vagina and licking her own face, like she's a porn actress who forgot she was doing a mainstream movie. Or, more accurately, like the character is a porn actress who forgot she was working in a real office. I don't mean that there's anything wrong with porn actresses, or that the actress who plays Alan Rickman's secretary is anything but lovely here, I mean that LOVE ACTUALLY SEES NO PROBLEM WITH TREATING ITS FEMALE CHARACTERS LIKE GIANT BIPEDAL VAGINAS IN SWEATER VESTS.
(Also, she's still looking for a venue for the holiday party and it's only three weeks before Christmas!?!?! This is why you shouldn't hire any non-sentient organ to do clerical work. No matter how sexy it is.)
Anyway, the flirtation is a problem because Alan Rickman is married to Emma Thompson, but don't worry—she wears foundation garments and talks too much (see above) and therefore deserves to die alone with nothing but Joni Mitchell for comfort.
Laura Linney, the only other female character with some semblance of an inner life, meets a similar fate.
This is a movie made for women by a man.
Back at Hugh Grant's office, where Hugh Grant does his man-politics, Hugh Grant is like, "Who do you have to screw around here to get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?" Then Natalie walks in with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.
Her. That woman. That's what you have to screw.
Liam Neeson doesn't know what to do because his 11-year-old step-kid (whose MOM JUST DIED) seems to sit around in his room being sad a lot (!?!!?!?!?). Emma Thompson drops by to cheer him up with her own signature combo of product placement, synth strings, and being a fucking asshole for no reason.
From now on, every time I see a box of Frosted Flakes I will think of Liam Neeson crying.
To be perfectly honest, Liam Neeson is really acting the hell out of this movie.
Okay, turns out, the kid—whose name is Sam and who's played by Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones—is "in love" with a girl named Joanna (which is HIS DEAD MOM'S NAME, BTW), but she doesn't know he exists. Probably because he's been hanging out with the men of Love Actually too much, so he just sits around being a self-pitying douche instead of FUCKING TALKING TO HER LIKE A HUMAN BEING.
When Sam tells Liam Neeson that's why he's depressed, Liam Neeson laughs in his face. Then they come up with 900 different strategies to "make" Joanna fall in love with him. Weirdly, none of the strategies are "Say hi to her." Also not considered: "You're 11. Calm the fuck down."
(Ugh, Jojen, just put this movie out of its misery with your frog spear already.)
Hugh Grant offers to have Natalie's ex-boyfriend murdered for telling her that her thighs are too large—which is an especially adorable flirtation when you consider that he's a major world leader whose office has historically colonized half the world and bombed and murdered countless actual human beings. BUT IT'S PRETTY FUNNY IN THIS CONTEXT BECAUSE HE WANTS TO GET SOME HOT SNATCH.
Then he looks up at a photograph of Margaret Thatcher and calls her a "saucy minx."
Hey, idea: Could someone respect a woman for one second in this fucking movie? Or could we at least confine the misogyny to women who are actual characters in the film? Does Maggie T. not get enough shit!?!??! Do we have to bring Britney Spears's sexual prowess into it? Uuuuuuugh.
Okay. Seriously. Is this Colin Firth storyline actually about human trafficking? Colin Firth shows up in France and this woman just gets dropped off at his house and he "falls in love with her" even though they cannot communicate and the only thing he knows about her is that he's really, really into her butt. But it's "love"! So he just "has" her now! She's "his"! Colin Firth decided they should be together without ever saying a single word to each other, and so that's what happens. Congratulations, now you have a weird stranger who lives in your house and fat-shames you in Portuguese. "Love."
This entire movie is just straight white men acting upon women they think they "deserve." This entire movie is just men doing things.
Also, who writes their novel on loose pages on a typewriter in an open-air shack next to a pond?
Bros hoping to get a glimpse of their bang-maid's Portuguese buns, I guess. Long con. Up top, Firth.
Billy Bob Thornton, the president of America, comes to visit Hugh Grant. In the hallway, they run into
Natalie Fatalie, and this exchange occurs:
Billy Bob Thornton: "How's your day so far?"
Natalie: [Indistinguishable giggle.]
Billy Bob Thornton: "Excellent."
First of all, how are you not gonna answer the president of the United States when he asks you how your day's going, Natalie!? Too busy thinking about ham, I bet.
And second of all, once again, IT NEVER FUCKING MATTERS WHAT WOMEN SAY. THEY LITERALLY JUST TOOK A LINE AWAY FROM A WOMAN AND REPLACED IT WITH A NONSENSE SYLLABLE. SHE COULD HAVE ACTUALLY SAID SOMETHING AND INSTEAD SHE JUST GOES "MEEP MEEP" AND BILLY BOB THORNTON POPS A BONER.
Third of all, it kind of seems like less a depiction of our president and more like Billy Bob Thornton just broke character when that girl walked by.
I find it personally insulting to imply that I belong to a species this simple.
Later, at a press conference, Hugh Grant causes a major international incident because Billy Bob sexually assaulted a property he likes:
I love that word "relationship". Covers all manner of sins, doesn't it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm... Britain. We may be a small country but we're a great one, too. The country of William Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham's right foot. David Beckham's left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the President should be prepared for that.
HE'S TALKING ABOUT HIS PENIS, YOU GUYS. It might be a small penis, but it wrote Harry Potter.
Everything in this movie is fucking insane. That's not how press conferences work. That's not how diplomacy works. That's not how prime ministers work. NOTHING IS HOW ANYTHING WORKS. That's not how weddings work, that's not how audio recording works, that's not how saxophones work, that's not how hair works, that's not how business meetings work, that's not how art works, that's not how grief works, that's not how primary school Christmas concerts work, that's not how airports work, that's not how music charts work, that's not how fat works, and none of it is how "love works."
Keira Knightley, wearing an unacceptable hat, goes over to the best man's house to look at his video of her wedding.
Turns out, the wedding video he took is 100% close-ups of her face because the dude is a fucking psychopath.
Keira Knightley: "They're all of me."
Worst Guy: "Yeah."
Yeah, I took it so I could watch it later over and over when I'm alone in my house thinking about your skin.
Instead of calling British 911, she's flattered.
Thanks, Love Actually. Thank you for telling a generation of men that their intrusiveness and obsessions are "romantic," and that women are secretly flattered no matter what their body language says.
Was the score to this movie just a page with "doo dee doo dee doo doo dee doo dee doo doo dee doo dee doo doo dee doo dee doo" scribbled all over it?
WHY IS THIS ASSHOLE JUGGLING AT WORK? DOESN'T ANYONE IN THIS UNIVERSE HAVE A FUCKING JOB?
Hugh Grant decides he needs to fire Natalie because she's 2 tempting 2 believe. Then he has this Actual Conversation with his secretary:
Secretary: "The chubby girl?"
Hugh Grant: "Would we call her chubby?"
Secretary: "I think there's a pretty sizable ass there, yes, sir. Huge thighs."
Can we not refer to a woman who worked her way up to a job in the prime minister's office as "the chubby girl"? Also, can we fire the entire government for sexual harassment?
Hey, I wonder what Colin Firth is getting me for Christmas!
Liam Neeson and Jojen Reed relax and watch Titanic to regroup, because that's something middle aged men and little kids do together. Jojen is still totally stumped about the best way to force Joanna to love him against her will. I mean, he's tried everything. He tried staring at her, he tried never ever talking to her, he tried complaining to his dad, he tried watching Titanic...seriously, what is it going to TAKE, Joanna!?
Then, lightbulb! "There's this big concert at the end of term, and Joanna's in it, and I thought that if I was in the band and played absolutely superbly, there's a chance that she might fall in love with me."
OH MY GOD, OR YOU COULD JUST GO TALK TO HER.
TALK TO HER.
TALK TO HER.
Dude, who slow-dances at their office party?
Also, that guy's name is NOT "Karl." It is quite obviously Rodrigo, which I know because it is literally that actor's name in real life.
Despite still never having had a conversation, Laura Linney finally gets Karl back to her house for intercourse. They get in the door go straight to the bed (wouldn't want to wander into the living room and accidentally have a conversation), where we finally find out Laura Linney's TERRIBLE SECRET.
She has a brother.
And he calls sometimes.
To be more specific, Laura Linney has a mentally ill brother who lives in a facility and calls her frequently for reassurance and comfort, and she always takes his calls because she loves him deeply and feels responsible for his well being now that their parents are dead.
Ugh, women with mentally ill brothers are such boner killers.
DEALBREAKER. Karl's out.
I can't believe Laura Linney showed her boobs for this.
Alan Rickman buys a fancy sex-necklace for vagina-secretary and Emma Thompson finds it in his pocket and gets all excited and then cries when all she gets for Christmas is a Joni Mitchell CD that I'm sure she already had because she said earlier in the movie that Joni Mitchell is her fucking favorite singer. But I'm sure you found a SECRET JONI MITCHELL CD she'd never heard of, Alan Rickman. Asshole.
Anyway, I hope Emma Thompson learned her lesson about being a human being made of perishable cells. Guh-ross.
Love Actually puts a lot of stock in the idea that people are either good or bad. People either love or they don't, reciprocate or they don't. The grander the gesture, the greater the crime of not reciprocating. LOVE GOOD. NOT-LOVE BAD. It's a pleasant fantasy, I think, because if you accept the difficult truth that people are more than just good or bad, then you have to question whether or not happiness really exists. Because if people are more complicated, then happiness must be more complicated, and at that point is it really happiness?
Oh, god, why am I bothering. Actually.
Liam Neeson tries to explain to Jojen Reed what love is, by describing his sex life: "Wanton sex in every room of the house, including yours."
Hey, why are you always talking to that kid about sex?
Like, get a friend.
That best man guy shows up at Keira Knightley's house and spawns a decade of nice-guy emotional manipulation reframed as "romance." And Keira Knightley fucking kisses him for it.
I know it's early, but I'm calling it. Artistic low point of the 21st century.
Meanwhile, Hugh Grant realizes he should never have fired Natalie for having too much juice in the caboose (MAINLY BECAUSE THAT IS ILLEGAL), and so it's grand gesture time!!! He hops in the Misuse-of-government-funds-mobile and has the driver take him to Natalie's street, where he knocks on every door looking for her, because apparently the UK government does not keep records of the contact information of recent employees AND ALSO THE PRIME MINISTER DOES NOT HAVE A CELL PHONE.
When Hugh Grant finally tracks Natalie down, her horrible family bullies him into accompanying them into the school Christmas play, but not before Natalie's dad calls her "Plumpy" in front of the prime minister.
They begin to profess their "love" for one another in the car, but don't get very far thanks to cock-blocktopus over here.
The pair sneaks backstage and starts making out during the big finale, only to have their "secret" tryst revealed when the curtain rises and they're kissing in the middle of the set. Hey, prime minister, we all like making out with fat chicks, but WHY DON'T YOU EVER GO TO WORK? DON'T YOU HAVE AN ENGLAND TO RUN?
Colin Firth goes all the way home to London but as soon as he gets there he realizes he forgot his Portuguese sex slave on the baggage carousel or something. So he abandons Christmas dinner with his loving family and flies back to France. The one expression of genuine love in this movie and Colin Firth peaces-out to go hump a stranger.
He shows up at Aurelia's front door and starts yelling at her father in shitty Portuguese. He's like, "I am here to ask your daughter for her hand in marriage," and the dad is like, "Say what!?" because he thinks Colin Firth means his other daughter, who is fat and gross, and that would obviously make no sense, because women who are slightly larger than some other women deserve to be alone forever unless they're the size-6 kind of fake fat like Natalie. Then the dad offers to pay Colin Firth to take fat daughter off his hands. Colin Firth is like "Ew, no. I only want to purchase/marry HOT women I've never spoken to in my life."
Once the truth gets sorted out, fat daughter says: "Father is about to sell Aurelia as a slave to this Englishman."
FIRST SENSIBLE LINE ANYONE'S SAID FOR THIS ENTIRE MOVIE.
Fat daughter: "You better not say 'yes,' father."
The dad: "Shut up, Miss Dunkin' Donut 2003."
DAD, I WON A CONTEST. BE HAPPY FOR ME.
Oh, also Jojen Reed has now chased Joanna all the way to the airport, where he's broken through security and is leading agents on a "wacky" chase to the gate.
I feel like this scene would have been way less wacky if that was a brown kid instead of a white one.
Colin Firth and this entire French village (who, again, apparently all speak only Portuguese) finally arrive at the restaurant where Aurelia works. Rumors are running wild among the crowd at this point:
"Apparently he is going to kill Aurelia!"
When they get there, Aurelia looks horrified and is like, "What the fuck are you doing at my work!? I don't even know you, dude! Get out of here! Oh my god, I'M TRYING TO RUN A RESTAURANT HERE. GO AWAY, YOU CREEPY ENGLISHMAN."
No. Just kidding. She agrees to fucking marry the guy. Forever. Even though they have never spoken.
In a painfully fitting finale, Colin returns from America with the woman he got. He literally brings her back to England with him like a fucking airport souvenir. But don't worry, Tony, HE IMPORTED AN OBJECT WITH NO AGENCY FOR YOU TOO. HERE, PUT YOUR MOUTH ON IT.
That's love, kids.
Oh, wait. Actually, it's shit.