Love Actually (12/19/12)

Love ActuallyMovie Two Hundred Eighty Nine

At least eight different, intertwining tales of love at Christmastime in London come together in Love Actually.

The different stories –

  • Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is an aging rock star looking to stage a comeback with a new Christmas album with the help of his manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher).
  • Juliet (Keira Knightley) marries Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) but learns that Peter’s best friend, Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is in love with her.
  • A writer, Jamie (Colin Firth) finds his girlfriend sleeping with his brother and travels to a remote French cottage where he falls in love with the Portuguese cleaning lady, Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz), who doesn’t speak English.
  • Harry (Alan Rickman) finds himself attracted to his secretary, Mia (Heike Makatsch), and his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson) begins to suspect something when she finds a gift for her.
  • David (Hugh Grant), the new Prime Minister, falls for Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), a member of his household staff.
  • Daniel (Liam Neeson) and his stepson, Sam (Thomas Sangster), mourn the loss of their wife and mother. Sam has also fallen for his American classmate and Daniel decides to help him win her over.
  • Sarah (Laura Linney) has had a crush on a coworker, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), for years but their relationship is constantly interrupted by calls from her mentally ill brother.
  • Unlucky in love in London, Colin (Kris Marshall) decides to travel to America to find a girl, or girls.
  • John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) meet while filming as body doubles for various sex scenes.

Wow, do you have all that? It’s not nearly as confusing as it sounds as each of the stories is short and all of them overlap in some way. Characters crop up in different stories and the golden thread of the film is love. Love Actually is surprisingly one of the best romantic comedies I’ve ever seen. Love Actually is incredibly charming, honest, and funny and it’s a Christmas movie to boot. In fact, it’s the only Christmas movie I can think of that has nudity, so that doesn’t hurt.

There is a lot to keep track of in Love Actually and some of the story lines play out better than others, but the film rarely feels like it is trying to pull in too much. The only real disappointment comes if your favorite story lines don’t wrap up as fully as others. The cast is so varied that even if you have an aversion to an actor, they likely aren’t on screen long enough to get under your skin. When I was reviewing Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, I noted that Keira Knightley bothered me in that film, but here she is pleasant.

I had seen Love Actually a few years ago and vaguely remembered a few of the characters and their stories, but the film felt fresh to me. I could see moving Love Actually into regular Christmastime movie rotation, but it’s also complex enough to have it be “new” every few years. Regardless, I know it’s past Christmas but let Love Actually into your heart and onto your screen when the seasons rolls around again next year.

I give it 4 “to me, you are perfect…”s out of 5.

PS – I could not have written this review without the help of Wikipedia.

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (12/9/12)

Seeking a Friend for the End of the WorldMovie Two Hundred Seventy Five

In the final days before an asteroid wipes out the Earth, two neighbors form an unlikely friendship as they are Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

News that the 70-mile-wide asteroid will be colliding with Earth in three weeks comes in and Dodge Peterson’s (Steve Carell) wife leaves him. He goes into work the next day at the insurance company to find that the building is mostly deserted and people are handling the end of the world differently, either depressed or without inhibition and everywhere in between. After trying to kill himself by drinking a window cleaning product called “Windose”, he wakes up with a dog tied to him a note that says “sorry”, so he names the dog Sorry. He meets his neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley) and the two form a bond. Dodge tells her that he wants to visit his first love, Olivia, and she wants to visit her family in England and they decide to help each other meet their final wishes.

I have mixed feelings about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but unfortunately they are mostly negative. It’s not that I had a bad time watching the film, at the time I was largely indifferent to it, I just wasn’t charmed by it. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has a myriad of cameos from big stars, and Carell in the lead will likely polarize people from the start. I’m a fan of Carell’s work, both good and bad, and he is totally underutilized here. Dodge is likeable, but so incredibly mundane that I never really cared for him. Keira Knightley also kind of bugs me so that doesn’t help cinch the friendship/romance we’re supposed to be rooting for.

The main problem I have with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is its sense of humor. Most of the humor in the film is dark, sometimes so dark it’s hard to tell if it’s trying to be funny or just making light of a dark situation. End of the world films should have an air of doom to them, after all, but instead of keeping it dark comedy there are some odd bits that seem to have the opposite sense of humor. It’s almost like several people had a hand in writing different scenes of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but not in a good, varied way, but in a way that seems directionless.

That’s kind of a lot of negative criticism to throw at a film I didn’t hate watching, but I feel like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a wasted opportunity for a pretty damn good premise. I feel like a comedian like Louis CK could do so much with the material here and make a fantastic dark comedy with better characters. In fact, now that I’ve said that, I wish Louis CK was in the film instead of Steve Carell because Louis CK makes everything better. Speaking of comedians, Patton Oswalt has a great cameo.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is still a film I would recommend seeing but it would be low on my recommendation list. It’s a film that wants to do so much right and just doesn’t quite hit the high notes it needs to be memorable.

I give it 3 Friendsy’s out of 5.

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