I was trying to avoid the whole thing, honestly, because so many other people were blogging and snarking and ranting about the subject, but now a friend has sent me the definitive Most Delightfully Mean-Spirited Takedown of Love Actually Ever Written, and so I’m putting up this brief post as a kind of holiday public service. Y'know: spread the schadenfreude.
There is a War on Love (Actually) this Christmas, apparently because the mere War on Christmas wasn’t enough. (Kids, you should know that we adults who don’t have enough real problems to gripe about are always declaring war on something, so you don’t have to pay attention to this, because nobody’s really getting hurt here. It’s all about a movie! So go back to killing more imaginary people on your Xbox.)
It was Christopher Orr’s article in the Atlantic that officially kicked it off last week (He started it!). Orr was astutely articulating what's been at the core of a growing hail of anti-Actually sentiment, built up over time. His attack was followed by an impassioned defense by a Love Actually lover, of course, and before you could say “Whoops-a-daisy,” everybody got into the act.
There’s something about this movie that really, um, gets to people, either for ill or good, and for those who’ve always liked or loved it, now you know the awful truth: Evidently it’s an evil thing, and it’s just been sitting there, smirking, waiting to be vanquished. I myself have always been perfectly ambivalent about this movie, loving it and loathing it, simultaneously, in equal parts. Here in part is what I said about it here, just last year, in a post about my rom-com viewing experiences in the Oughts:
Most galling of all, though, is the movie's theme, which is glib to the point of inanity: the idea that love is all around you, and that all you have to do is recognize it, to live happily ever after. This notion felt so counter to my experience at the time that despite what I loved about this treacle-stuffed holiday package, I wanted to picket the damn thing (my sign might've read LOVE ACTUALLY UNFAIR TO REALITY).
For those who generally enjoy the work of Richard Curtis, the vitriol directed at his directorial debut may be somewhat bewildering. But even people like me, who’ve been in the unenviable position of defending Curtis ever since, well, everything he’s done since Four Weddings (I'm always beseeching people to see Girl in the Café), have to acknowledge that Love Actually is rom-com porn: its fundamental ethos is so cheaply manipulative in its design to make your heart go “awww” and your brain go dead that it takes a brave soul to own up to having been moved by it, actually.
I’ll just note that the film is bewilderingly schizophrenic: for every great laugh (I totally embrace Bill Nighy in this movie, and feel free to scorn me), there’s a “huh?” of a dud (e.g. the entire “Brit nitwit goes America” storyline); for every genuinely poignant moment (Emma Thompson’s justly famous Joni Mitchell weltschmerz scene), there’s a patently bogus one (Emma’s “WTF happened here?!” reunion scene with despicable hub Alan Rickman).
There’s a whole “hot young women falling head over heels for their middle-aged male employers” motif that’s truly galling, too… and then, incidentally, there’s a Dying Lesbian Love Story, replete with good PC intentions, that was cut from the picture (found on the DVD extras) that could really make the Actually haters’ heads explode, while causing us ambivalent folks to say, “See? Curtis doesn’t mean to be so wrong!” Like I said: schizophrenic.
And don’t even get me started on the airport. Meanwhile, enjoy the links (this one features a fun pro vs. con dialogue). You might even be moved to hate-watch the movie again. But be careful – Love Actually has its insidious ways of getting its little rom-com hooks into your soul, and good grief, you don’t want to lose your Grinch game now, do you?