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Love Actually (R)
Universal Studios
Official Site
Director: Richard Curtis
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Duncan Kenworthy
Written by: Richard Curtis
Cast: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Rowan Atkinson

Rating: out of 5

If you learned everything you knew about love from watching this movie, you would believe that ďlove actually is all aroundĒ (not coincidentally the working title of the film), that it involves lots of singing and dancing, and that it is especially potent during Christmastime.

Itís five weeks until Christmas, and from the Prime Minister of Britain (Grant) to the littlest of boys (Thomas Sangster), it seems the love bug has bitten everyone. Love Actuallyís trailers and posters try to capitalize on all its big name stars, and that list isnít even close to the full list of main characters. Writer and director Richard Curtis must have brainstormed all the love situations he could think ofóincluding newlyweds, couples with children, infatuations, the widowedóand attempted to synthesize them all into one 129-minute film. The result is a true ensemble piece where over 10 separate love stories are intertwined and all given more or less equal screen time.

The stories work because the characters have very distinct personalities, though interestingly they are all connected through mutual acquaintances. Furthermore, aged rock singer Billy Mackís (Nighy) holiday ditty is played throughout the movie and connects all the plot twists together.

The list of storylines is a long one. Fluttery Prime Minister David is sweet on his fiery-tongued assistant Natalie ( McCutcheon). Widower Daniel (Neeson) is helping his young step-son Samuel ( Sangster) cope with what he calls the ďagony of being in love.Ē Harry ( Rickman) is married to Karen ( Thompson), but is enticed by a younger woman ( Ivana Milicevic) at the office. Jamie ( Firth) falls for a pretty Portuguese ( Lucia Moniz) while Sarah (Linney) has a long-time crush on co-worker Carl ( Rodrigo Santoro), and this is only the beginning. Thereís even a storyline involving two porn-star stand-ins, which is even more bizarre than it looks in writing.

Although the movie quickly switches from one scenario to another like a soap opera, the plot is not too difficult to follow. The stories donít have time to be deep and are therefore necessarily superficial, yet the characters are easy to sympathize with. Either the feeling of love is so universal that we can relate to the characters without much background information, or we have been so habituated in cinematic love that we can instantly understand it when we see it. Whichever it is, it works.

One of the movieís goals is to be cute, and to achieve this purpose it has solicited the help of several exceedingly adorable children. When all these children are gathered together for a Christmas program at their school, it is cuteness at its prime.

Attempts at being a funny movie are also successful. Especially memorable is a dance sequence in which the Prime Minister performs a dance number when he believes no one is around. Itís amusing because itís hard to fathom a PM boogying down 10 Downing Street. Itís also amusing because, well, itís Hugh Grant shaking his hips.

Love Actually is set in England, and the cast boasts more British stars than the Harry Potter franchise. However, there are some funny moments involving Americans, such as a guest appearance by Billy Bob Thornton as the President of the United States. Thereís also an interesting sequence where Colin (Chris Marshall) takes a trip to the States to find easy American girls who like British accents.

With so many characters, itís a stretch to believe that everyone can find a happy ending. But itís Christmas after all, and according to this movie, anything can happen.

óKelly Hsu


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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