Love, Actually

Not Recommended. This movie is mostly about lust, actually. It’s central themes are that love is all around us, and that we must communicate to one another our love or suffer in uneccessary misery. I think the reason why it is an ensemble piece is precisely to convey this idea that there is a lot of love going on and we need to see it (a positive note in a post-911 world. The narrator even mentions 911 in the Voiceover). Unfortunately, there are so many stories going on that it is rather unsatisfying and confusing at times. Now I don’t disagree with the themes, I just think that the stories they chose to communicate these themes reveal a rather shallow understanding of love as, yet again a Romantic idolatry of passion over purity. Here they are:
1. Alan Rickman plays a business man who is tempted by his seductress secretary, while his wife, played brilliantly (as always) by Emma Thompson, deals with discovering it. The interesting thing about this story is that he never gets to the infidelity, he merely begins flirting with it and takes a first step. Emma discovers the first step and they have to struggle with this in their marriage. Actually, a good story, and it ends a bit open-ended which is not bad in and of itself, except that most of the marriage stories in this tale do not have the happy endings, thus giving a subversive negative feeling about marriage itself. Would have been a great opportunity of having a man choosing the right thing and growing in his love. But there is a sense of the reality of such struggles that I think was good. It’s just that movies ARE NOT REALITY, they are about how reality SHOULD BE. SO, it would have been better to show the guy struggling, making a bad choice, but then making the right choice and being better for it. Nothing wrong with temptation and even failure in movies, just show us redemption or what good choices can accomplish. Reinforce good values, not negative ones.
2. Colin Firth plays a married man who discovers his wife is committing adultery with his brother, so he moves out and gets a place in the country where he can write a book. He ends up falling in love with his Portugese cleaning woman, in one of the only good stories here. They do not speak a common language, but through subtitles we discover that they think about and talk about the very same things to each other without knowing about it. In other words, they are of the same mind and heart, and are therefore made for each other and don’t know it. Great and good old fashioned love story.
3. Another unknown-to-me actor, Billy Nighy, plays an aged grandfather of rock and roll who has a comeback with a remake of his Christmas hit, “Love is all around.” It is a very relevant and original story in that he is the only one who really speaks the truth about his façade life of lonely selfishness to radio DJs and television shows, and gets rich over it, and no one even cares about the fact that he is speaking the truth about the emptiness of it all. In fact, people get embarrassed and try to ignore it, another clever and original way of showing how we do not face our need for real love. What is great about his story is that it is the realization that he was unaware of the true friendship that he had with his manager while being immersed in so much “Hollywood” fake love. At the end he makes the right choice to express his loving friendship (not homosexuality) with his abused manager and is a better man for it. Great story, great moral.
4. Two actors who I do not know play a couple of stand-ins for porn movies. They fall in “love” with each other while standing in on set faking sex acts for the lighting and camera men to get their equipment set for the real stars. This story alone, while highly original, is entirely inappropriate and worth scrapping the movie because of it’s gratuitous eye-closing scenes. In a way, it shows the dehumanization of sexuality in porn, and how sex can be separated from love, but in another way, it actually devalues the sacredness of sexuality by having fun with it.
5. High Grant plays the newly instituted Prime Minister who falls in love with one of his low class maids who lives in a “dingey” part of London, and who has a fowl mouth that illustrates that lack of upbringing. Well, this is supposed to be a Cinderella story, but in fact, it was also unsatisfying because quite frankly, I considered the maid as unworthy of the pursuit, not because she was low class, but because she showed no character quality that transcended her low class and made her worthy. Beauty alone is a shallow and immature understanding of love which made this story unappealing.
6. Liam Neeson plays the widowed dad of a 9 year old who discovers his son is struggling under the misery of first love himself. Well, this is all rather cute in placing the existential angst of love into the mouth of a child, but again it was a rather unfulfilling story because 9 year olds cannot truly understand love and it is quite inappropriate to encourage this idea, which continues to push the inevitable sexuality of relationships to younger and younger ages. The father is shown connecting with his son and helping him to overcome his shyness, but again this otherwise good attempt to show father/son relationship is actually subversive because it creates the illusion of maturity in youth that simply does not exist, which fosters the lie that kids are their own people who have the right to make their own decisions in life, you know, “rights of the child” and all that agenda that is the attempt to overthrow the authority of parents over their children by making kids out to be “little adults.”
7. Keira Knightly plays a newly married woman who discovers her husband’s best friend does not actually hate her, as she supposes, but is in love with her and therefore too ashamed to face her and tell her. A good premise with a bad conclusion. He finally has the “guts” to reveal to her his undying love under the nose of her husband and she kisses him, leaving us with another ambiguous ending. This was entirely inappropriate and left me with another dissatisfied feeling, making the movie 4 to 3 in favor of bad love stories. I have no problem with having some divergent conclusions to show the negative and positive responses to truth, but if the positive does not outweigh the negative by enough, the resultant feeling one leaves with is not positive, but negative.
8. Laura Linney plays a woman who is so obsessed with taking care of her mentally handicapped brother in a hospital that it gets in the way of her finding her own love. She is always loving and giving to her brother who calls her all the time, and when she finally finds a guy who likes her and goes to bed with her, she is interrupted by yet another meaningless phone call by her brother with an imaginary problem. She chooses to fly to the immediate aid of her brother again rather than give the love interest attention, and thereby loses the relationship. I think this might be interpreted one of two ways: either you see it as a subversive anti-family story that shows that when you make your family the most important, regardless of their dysfunction, then you ruin your own chances at life and love. Or secondly, that sometimes familial love is just as powerful and legitimate as romantic love. Considering the context of the entire movie, I think it is the former, and therefore a negative love story.

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