Thanks to The Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I was able to retrieve the review I wrote of “Love Actually” in April of 2004. When I wrote this, I dubbed this the worst movie of all time. In the now eight years since, I’ve only seen one other movie I think was worse than this one.
Love Actually is the worst movie of all time. Absolutely the worst. I had previously assigned the lofty crown of Worst Movie I’ve Ever Seen to the painfully ghastly House of the Dead, but Love Actually makes HotD look like Citizen Kane in comparison.
Love Actually is set in England, beginning six weeks before Christmas, and starts with a Hugh Grant voiceover about how love is everywhere if you only look for it. From there, the film takes off into 10 different directions – literally, 10 different directions. There are 10 sets of people about whom various stories of love (and not all the gushy good kind) are told in the film, and the film jumps around to all 10 over the course of its ridiculous length of two hours and 15 minutes.
Some are worthwhile; Liam Neeson’s story about dealing with the untimely death of his wife and his dealings with her son – his stepson – is OK, save for the fact that the dialog for his son is atrocious – he talks like no 11-year-old you’ll ever meet. And the film pretty much gives the thumbs up for a father to talk to his pre-teen son and use phrases like, “well, then, I guess you’re fucked.” Could be funny in a conversation between adults, but pretty inappropriate when talking to a kid.
Laura Linney’s story about balancing her desperate need for a social life with her overwhelming (and suffocating) sense of duty to care for her mentally-retarted brother also was OK. They end this story early, because Linney ultimately decides to remain chained to her brother and ignore her own needs for a life – and that letdown of an ending would’ve screwed up the happy little nonsense at the end.
Somehow, every character in all 10 stories is somehow connected to a character in one of the other stories – the naughty office vixen who is trying to nail the married Alan Rickman conveniently lives next door to the chick Hugh Grant is after (for no reason whatsoever – they probably just didn’t want to hire another extra); Rickman’s wife is Grant’s sister; the office vixen tries to score Rickman at a Christmas party set up at an art gallery either owned or operated by Colin Firth; on and on and on. Everybody knows everybody, but there’s no *point* to everybody knowing everybody. The stories are in *no* way tied together – it’s just absurd.
The ending is even worse. Somehow, by the time the movie ends, the seven storylines that have not yet been tied up all come to a convenient close at an airport. By some absolutely inexplicable twist of fate, one person from every one of the seven remaining groups is arriving home at the same airport at the same time! So, there are lots of hugs and happiness and wrapping up of stories in a nice tight little fashion. It makes absolutely no sense, and is proof positive that at least half of the sub-stories in this movie should’ve just been cut.
There’s simply too much going on. With 10 stories and upwards of 30 characters, there’s never time to develop any one of them. You don’t care why Person A is in Situation X, because you know nothing about the characters. And as a result, you care even less when Situation X is either resolved or comes crashing down around Person A. It felt like one of those awful late-run Batman movies – “I’m too busy to worry about the plot! I’ve got more characters to introduce!”
Bullet points on why this movie sucked:
• Hugh Grant is the Prime Minister of England – perhaps the worst mis-cast of all time.
• Billy Bob Thornton is the President of the United States, and exists in the movie for the sole purpose of opening the door for anti-American rants from Grant’s character, and in a truly boorish moment to put the moves on his assistant. It’s only the beginning of this movie’s anti-American slant – more to come.
• During Grant’s tirade against America, he backs up the fact that England is “small but great” by announcing to a gathered press corps that England is the home of, amongst other things, Harry Potter. Seriously – Harry Potter. Thanks, England!
• The film berates overweight women *constantly* – and mostly from father-to-daughter, which is even more disturbing. The father of Hugh Grant’s love interest refers to her as “Puffy” at one point the film, and the sister of Colin Firth’s love interest is referred to by her father as “Ms. Dunkin’ Donut 2003.” Firth’s love interest is then ridiculed for being *too* thin. I guess you can’t win.
• One of the stories revolves around two stand-ins on a porn movie shoot. They spend the movie naked and feining sex so the videographer can get his lighting set up, and then it turns into “I”m too shy to ask you out even though I’ve had my crotch in your face for three weeks.”
• American women are all apparently mega-hot sluts who will drop their pants and have four-on-one orgies with any dirt-ass with an English accent.
• Counting Thornton, there are exactly six adult-aged American characters in the movie, and they’re all either loose bar sluts or under-sexed hornball politicians.
• Liam Neeson’s son goes from knowing nothing about musical instruments to being good enough to play drums in the school band in *four weeks* to impress a girl.
a) No way he gets from picking up a drumstick for the first time to playing the way he did in the conclusion of that segment in four weeks
b) Wouldn’t the big production at the end of the school year already have a freakin’ drummer four weeks out?
• Neeson spends the entire movie joking about how he’ll behave a certain way “unless Claudia Schiffer comes along.” So what happens at the end of the movie? You guessed it! Claudia Schiffer comes along! And miraculously, she has the hots for him! Amazing!
• Colin Firth falls in love with a woman whom he never has a conversation with – because they don’t speak the same language – when she takes off her clothes and dives into a pond. Also inexplicably, she somehow has fallen in love with him too. The parade through the city streets when he nonsensically decides to drop everything and go to France – to ask her to marry him. Even though he’s never spoken to her. Even more stupifying – she says yes. Give me a break.
• The songs on the soundtrack to the film are good, but the score is *terrible*. It’s overly sappy, melodramatic and serves *no* purpose but to try and get the viewer into the emotional frame of mind the movie wants them in. Granted, that’s what a score is for, but in this case it’s so ham-fisted and over the top that it completely overwhelms the movie.
• The movie is at least 30 minutes too long. Granted, they need 2:15 to tell all 10 stories, but by eliminating the story about the porn stand-ins and probably Laura Linney’s story you dont’ change the movie in the slightest and you reduce the length by 20 percent. By the 1:45 mark of this film, should you ignore my pleas and rent it, you’ll be begging for the sweet release of death.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m traditionally a guy-movie guy, but I’ve always thought I have been able to appreciate a truly good romantic comedy – even one with Hugh Grant. I thought “About a Boy,” for instance, was surprisingly good. And I still compare romantic comedies to the Julia Roberts feature, “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” which I thought was superb and probably still stands as my favorite romantic comedy. Love Actually can’t hold a candle to either film. It’s simply dreadful, and I cannot possibly imagine a crime you could commit – short of tying your significant other to a chair and forcing her to watch you slaughter her parents with a chainsaw – that would in any way justify being forced to sit through it.
It’s the worst movie of all time.