It’s Christmas. You’ve already said ‘fuck it’ and used it as an excuse to drink a bottle of wine, eaten half a box of After Eights, you switch on the TV and what’s on? Love Actually.
Now, if you ask most people (especially women) if they like Love Actually you’ll be met with dreamy eyes, sighs and descriptions of some of their favourite bits; Rowan Atkinson’s over-dramatic gift wrap, the message cards played to carol music and of course, no-one can forget Emma Thompson’s breaking heart.
But me, I hate it. I believe Bill Nighy and Rab C Nesbit sum it up perfectly within the first five minutes of the film in their exchange:
“This is shit isn’t it?”
“Yep, solid gold shit!”
The film came out in 2003, so we’ve had 16 years of it being played out every single Christmas under the guise being ‘the perfect festive film’. It was directed by Richard Curtis, who has made some amazing films including Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral and one of my favourites The Boat That Rocked. As a director, he has a formula built to get you right in the feels, creating films with soundtracks you know, characters you can relate to and posh British accents.
But while in this film he once again sticks a bunch of famous people together with music designed to invoke feelings of nostalgia, he does it set around the the most emotive time of year. And yes, I’m aware most films are a bunch of famous people to sell the movie to audiences, but here, they are used simply to cover as many bases as possible.
You liked Rob Roy and Michael Collins? Well, here’s Liam Neeson for you!
An Eastenders fan? Here, have some Martine McCutcheon
Bridget Jones more your thing? Wait till you see Hugh Grant in this!
Everyone is apparently linked, yet no real relationships are truly created thanks to a 134 minute runtime where the audience is asked to follow a multitude of storylines which are all a bit, well, half-arsed.
The scenes most people cite as favourites are actually highly problematic. Imagine, you marry the woman you love and your best friend turns up at your house, with a boom box of carol songs and giant cards professing his love for your new wife! And then to make it even worse, she runs after him to kiss him.
The infamous scene with Emma Thompson is of course, heart wrenching. Realising your husband is buying expensive gifts for his young, attractive secretary instead of you must be awful. But when she finds out, she wipes away the tears, puts on a brave face and takes him back saying “I’m fine”. Love, you’re not fine. Be honest with yourself and for god’s sake set a better example for your kids.
In 2003, the notion of a bumbling idiot Prime Minister likely to get into a teenage fluster over a young and attractive junior member of staff might have seemed far fetched, but here it’s not only played for jokes but to establish an actual romance. In fact, Hugh Grant’s PM delivers probably the most laughably misogynist line in the whole film when he says “Who do you have to screw around here to get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?” before the young and perky Martine McCutcheon blindly walks into the scene pushing a trolly carrying both.
And Colin, played by Kris Marshall is… an arse. He’s convinced the only reason he can’t get a girl is because British women are “stuck up”. When the film came out, yes maybe this was funny, a caricature from the past. But now? Well, he’s just another sexist pig, who goes over to the US under the ridiculous premise that he’ll get laid by the desperate women of America based purely on his Britishness. And he does!
One thing that also really stood out to me is that, for a film set in London, one of the most diverse and culturally mixed cities in Britain, there are no main characters who are people of colour. I counted a total of four, none of whom had more than ten minutes of screen time and were just set ups for other people. Come on, at least try to have a diverse cast!
However Bill Nighy is as usual, a star. His character is a loathsome, potty-mouthed, ageing rock star only interested in making a quick buck. He is at least honest about this and one of the nice scenes in this whole film is him realising that he truly loves his manager and would rather be a good friend than a famous arsehole. He carries the comedic value of this film and as usual played just himself – though maybe more pervy uncle than lovable.
Maybe I’m too sceptical. You can call me a party pooper, unromantic and a bar humbug but to me, a Christmas film shouldn’t have a running theme of cheating, a gangbang and a possible international embarrassment.
So whilst most of the lovely ladies I know will be sitting down with a second bottle of Prosecco and the rest of those After Eights to have a good cry, I will be in my fluffy pjs, sat with Jordan and Angel and watching Muppets Christmas Carol and really getting into the Christmas spirit. I’ll hand in my girl card now if you wish…