First Time Watching: Love Actually

To be honest with you, I thought Love Actually came out a few years ago. It felt like a 2015 thing. Nope! It came out in 2003. I was shocked. Still am, actually.

The other night, I sat down and watched Love Actually for the first time. It was a wild experience. My brain had to upgrade its storage space because I learned so much.

Before Watching

I knew nothing about the movie, except for the fact that Andrew Lincoln was in it and he held up cue cards at some point. I knew that because I know him from The Walking Dead and I’ve seen the GIF about 89,703 times (give or take 89,600). More on that later.

I was curious to see if the film would address why there is no comma in the title, or if they’d use “love actually” in a sentence, so I could understand the context.

They did, in fact, use it in a sentence during the opening montage of people hugging at the airport.

“Love, actually, is all around.”

I guess I was expecting something more intricate. Like, Character A says to Character B, “What’s wrong? What are you feeling? Do you feel sick? Do you feel lethargic?” And Character B would be like, “No, I feel love, actually.”

Maybe they’ll use that in a sequel.

The pause screen on Netflix summed up the movie as follows:

“Love is all around – and so is heartbreak – as multiple couples navigate romance, family, weddings and airports at Christmastime.”

The pessimistic side of me thought, “Oh, great. I’m about to watch the theatrical version of my Instagram feed.” But it wasn’t, so that was nice.

Who’s Who?

To a normal person, the cast of Love Actually was a real who’s who of famous actors. To me, it was a who’s who? See the distinction?

I saw all the names of who was in the movie before I pressed play. I had heard of most of them and acknowledge that they are well-known.

However – and this is my achilles heel – I am terrible at matching an actor’s name with their person, unless it is someone I definitely know. I’ll show you what I mean.

Hugh Grant: I’ve heard the name, but had no idea what he looked like. I assumed he was an older gentleman and, in my head, cast him as the singer who kept singing, “Christmas is all around”. It turns out, Mr. Grant was the Prime Minister. Who knew? Not me.

I kept looking at the Prime Minister and felt like I should know who the actor was, but every time I tried to put my brain to use, I kept coming to the conclusion that he looked like former WWE writer, Brian Gewirtz (he now works for The Rock).

Look it up, tell me I’m wrong. I’m not. He looks more like Hugh Grant than Hugh Grant looks like Hugh Grant.

Liam Neeson: Again, had no idea what he looked like or who he played in the movie. Turns out, he was the stepdad of the boy who learned how to play drums just so a girl would notice him. And I can hear you from the other side of the screen, “Paul! How do you not know what Liam Neeson looks like?”

He could knock on my door tomorrow and say, “Hi, I’m Liam Neeson” and I’d still say, “Are you, though?

Keira Knightley: Again, I’ve heard of all of these actors, but to put a face – their 2003 face, no less – to the name, was impossible. I definitely thought she played the role of Natalie in the movie, but she didn’t. She was the wife of Andrew Lincoln’s best friend, who Andrew Lincoln held up the cue cards for because he loves her.

I told you, from my point-of-view, the viewing experience was wild.

It was a complete and utter, who’s who in the zoo.

Bill Nighy: I really don’t mean to offend these famous actors. I mean, do they know what I look like? No. So, we’re even. He played the singer, who turned well-known songs into Christmas songs by substituting the word “Christmas” into the lyrics.

I bet that character now runs a duct-cleaning scam

Emma Thompson: She played the role of Karen, otherwise known as Professor Snape’s Alan Rickman’s wife, who he betrayed when he bought fancy jewellery for not-his-wife aka his secretary. Again, knew the name. Not the person.

Billy Bob Thornton: He played the role of the U.S. President. Even as I look at pictures of him now, I still can’t match the person with the name. Are you sure, Google? Is that actually him?

Alan Rickman: I don’t remember what his character name was in the movie, but every time he popped up on screen, an alert went off in my head that said: “It’s Professor Snape!” That’s just the way it is, don’t question it.

I had an identity crisis on Alan Rickman’s behalf because I kept staring at his hair and wondering how it looked so different in the Harry Potter movies. These are the things I’m distracted by. I kept thinking he was going to punctuate his sentences by letting a, “Malfoyyyy” or “Slytherin” out, but to no avail. You could tell it was on the tip of his tongue, though.

Time out. It turns out his character’s name was, Harry. That had to be on purpose. Might as well of just named him, Severus, if they were going to be so intentional with it.

That way, he could just AirDrop his hissing pronunciation of the letter “s” into this role and send the crowd home happy.

Andrew Lincoln: I knew who he was – I said this at the start of the post. I will get into the cue cards thing later, as promised.

Laura Linney: Well if it isn’t Mrs. Ozark, herself! If you couldn’t tell from the fact that Snape hijacked my section about Alan Rickman, I have this habit where I see a character in one show and apply all of their character traits from their character in another show.

So, every time I saw her, all I could think about was how she had no idea that she’d become entangled in money laundering schemes in the future.

Rowan Atkinson: Mr. Bean!?!? I could not take him seriously. Just like I thought Rickman was going to slip into a Snape impression at any moment, I was waiting for Atkinson to do the same. I was waiting for him to make a face, or drop something. In the movie, he’s a jewellery salesman. It was a perfect opportunity to do something Bean-ish. He did not.

I’ll stop there and spare Colin Firth and the rest of the cast. You get the point. Outside of four people, I couldn’t match names with faces at all.

Plot

I’m not here to rehash the movie. I’m sure most of you have seen it before.

All I’ll say is, the movie started out five weeks before Christmas and jumped around to different love stories that evolve as the days pass. At first, none of the people seemed to be connected, but by the end of the film, it became abundantly clear that they were.

I thought it was cool how they did that. Everyone is caught up in their own little world, but are connected to someone else’s little world. It’s very six degrees of separation, but with scarves. That was a weather joke.

The plot layout also reinforced the theme of, “Love is all around you” which they beat to a pulp every chance they could.

Another thing I’ll say, before getting into specific moments in the movie, is that I liked how they didn’t force the Christmas theme on the viewer.

It was more like, “Yeah yeah, Christmas is coming and it’s what we’re counting down to, but pay attention to all of these people and their love stories”.

Christmas was the frame; the story was the picture within the frame.

Ohhh, They’re in the UK

I’m not normally the dullest bulb in the chandelier, but in this instance, I was completely burnt out.

There was a scene very early in the movie where the Prime Minister is dropped off at his residence – 10 Downing Street. See, I know stuff (thanks to Google).

Anyway, he was in the backseat. Before the car came to a complete stop, the driver got out of the car to open the back door for the Prime Minister.

I rewound this scene three times and analyzed it like the Zapruder film. How in the world did the car stop, if the driver got out before it did? Who’s pressing the brake pedal? Who’s putting it into park?

Then it hit me. Ohhh, they’re in the UK. That isn’t the driver. The driver is on the other side. The man who got out of the car was in the passenger seat.

There was a solid 90 seconds where I was convinced there was some sort of movie magic going on in this scene.

The Cue Cards

Okay, let’s get to them.

Andrew Lincoln’s character is in love with his best friend’s wife, Keira Knightley. Yes, I’m going by actor’s names because remembering character names is a whole other level of difficulty.

Lincoln was the photographer at their wedding and Knightley swings by to see if he has footage of her in her dress. Well, he does. Because he never stopped pointing the camera at her the entire night. She’s confused and doesn’t understand.

You could tell he wished he had taped over the VHS with an episode of, The Weakest Link, just to avoid the truth.

He’s in love with her, but had built a facade for so long that she thought he hated her. He claimed he was acting out of, “self-preservation”, which is a unique combination of sad and understandable.

Undersaddable? Sadderstandable?

We’ll work on it.

Anyway, Andy swings by their house one night with cue cards because he doesn’t want his best friend to hear that he’s professing his love for his wife. How fortunate that Keira was the one to answer the door.

He holds up a bunch of cue cards – the first one telling her to tell her husband that it’s just carollers. As he’s flipping through the cue cards, I’m realizing that I had created a false narrative in my head of what this scene was.

Of course, over the years, I’ve seen the GIF where he’s holding the card that says, “To me, you are perfect.” However, I thought he was holding these cards from a bedroom window a la Taylor Swift in the “You Belong With Me” music video.

For some reason, my mind had always assumed that this scene and that music video were somehow inspired by each other. There was a lot of columns toppling in my head because things I thought were true, weren’t even remotely so.

Yeah, so that’s what I wanted to talk about as it pertains to the cue cards.

Oh wait, then Keira ran out after Andrew and kissed him. And then ran back inside to her husband. As much as “love” was a theme in this movie, so was “infidelity”.

Jamie and Aurelia

Out of all the love stories this movie told, I thought this one was the most heartwarming.

Jamie is a writer who found out his girlfriend was cheating on him. Aurelia is his cleaning lady, who he drives home at the end of every day. She can’t speak English and he can’t speak Portuguese. They can’t have a conversation with each other in a common language and yet, they fall in love.

Insert a “they spoke the language of love” joke here. But seriously, I think when two people love each other, they can communicate on a different level where words aren’t necessary. They just “know”. I think that’s what the movie tried to demonstrate with this particular story.

Bill Nighy should’ve chimed in with his Christmas rendition of, “When You Say Nothing At All”, but he was asleep at the wheel, I guess. Why am I the only one with these golden ideas?

Aurelia moves back to Portugal and Jamie realizes he can’t live without her, so he tracks her down and proposes to her at the restaurant in which she works. However, the entire neighbourhood has gathered to witness such an occasion.

The phone lines were lit up that night with gossip, I can promise you that.

Oh – also…they had both been taking lessons to learn each other’s language.

And the crowd goes teary-eyed.

The Little Boy

Oh, elementary school crushes. This boy got it bad. The girl he likes is in the school band and he decides to join, despite not knowing how to play any instrument.

We can skip ahead a few at-home drum sessions later, to the part where his crush is leaving immediately after the school Christmas play to go back home to America. That’s how it always works in these movies, isn’t it?

They attend an event and then bam, right to the airport. It’s almost like she’s fleeing the country after a heist, except the only thing she stole was this little boy’s heart.

Anyway, he evades airport security thanks, in part, to a distraction from Mr. Bean. I’m still not entirely sure what happened there. Did Mr. Bean know what he was doing?

This airport chase scene felt like an homage to Home Alone 2. I’m sure TSA probably reached out to Hollywood after this movie said something along the lines of, “Stop making airport security look bad”.

At the end of the day, the boy got a kiss on the cheek. Based on his reaction, he probably didn’t wash his face for an entire week afterwards. And he probably slept with his other cheek on the pillow, too, just to “preserve it”. I got those vibes from him.

Rated R

I saw the R rating when I pressed play and thought it was a bit strange for a Christmas movie. Very quickly, it became abundantly clear that this wasn’t your regular wholesome, family Christmas movie.

It was a far cry from Tom Arnold being a creepy neighbour in the PG, Jingle All The Way.

My immediate reaction to realizing how far this movie was going to push the envelope was, “Thank God I’m not a teacher because I probably would’ve played this movie at school without watching it first.”

The Fat Jokes

Were they even jokes? I don’t know why referencing Natalie’s weight at, seemingly, every turn was necessary. Why was it in the script at all? It was a never-ending running gag that got more and more uncomfortable each time.

I don’t really want to hear the, “it was a different time” argument. It was 2003. They didn’t know they were unnecessarily adding a body shaming component to their movie?

It was as meaningful to the plot as saying the Prime Minister’s favourite slippers were blue. They didn’t say that, of course, being it didn’t matter.

Other Things

I watched the movie with subtitles on and noticed the word, “actually” was used many times. I don’t know if that was intentional, given the title, or if it was just a regular amount, but I felt like I should mention it.

I’ve been listening to the song, “Jump” by The Pointer Sisters ever since I heard it in the film. I need help.

I wonder how people from Wisconsin felt about how their state was portrayed.

Conclusion

I really liked the movie. I enjoyed it.

Yes, there are problematic elements to it. I didn’t even get into the whole gender roles thing and how the men dominated the dialogue, decisions, and direction of the entire movie.

I felt like I learned a lot, for better or worse.

What are your thoughts on Love Actually?

Is there a Christmas movie you think I should watch? Let me know!

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10 Responses to First Time Watching: Love Actually

  1. Now I want to watch this movie in its entirety… I’ve seen it on tv in bits and pieces and interrupted by commercials…never the whole thing.

    Wasn’t there a porn element to it as well or am I confusing this with another movie?

    Wonderfully entertaining piece here, Paul. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      You should watch the whole thing! It’s worth it.

      And no, you are not confusing it with another movie haha those scenes sneak up out of nowhere, so be ready.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. I still haven’t seen this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sabrina B says:

    Just popping in to take credit for sending you gifs of every person in this movie to name them and tell you where they’re from hahaha

    The running thing of calling Natalie fat is always an odd bit for me. I feel like the intent, since she isn’t what would be considered “fat,” is to suggest the characters calling her fat are just jealous of her, but that isnt much of an improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Yes, thank you for being my celebrity tour guide! My head is still spinning haha. I almost forgot to add Billy Bob Thornton to this post because I forgot he was in the movie again.

      Yeah it got to a point where I felt bad for the actor who played Natalie. It was too much.

      Like

  4. Rebecca says:

    I have not watched “Love Actually” in years. Back then, I found it a fun, albeit cheesy rom-com, but now I think the whole framework of love portrayed in the film is problematic (track the “love of your life” down? Dramatic cue cards to tell a married person that they love them? No, thank you). All the same, I think it’s important to be aware that this is just the movies, and that if you were to replicate some of these scenes in real life, well, you might get a slap in the face instead, haha. Happy holidays to you, Paul!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Oh yes, most of the gestures in the movie were very over the top which I guess they had to be, since it was a movie. I did find it entertaining. In real life, a lot of these characters would probably get restraining orders against them haha

      Happy holidays to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bill says:

    OK, you liked it. That’s good. 🙂

    The movie certainly does have its issues, not the least of which was the fat jokes. If you want to read a scathing takedown of the movie (and mind you, I say this as someone who loves the movie), here’s a good one. https://jezebel.com/i-rewatched-love-actually-and-am-here-to-ruin-it-for-al-1485136388

    The interesting thing about you not knowing who any of the actors were is that it was very much a “before they were famous” movie for a lot of the cast. Keira Knightley had just had some of her first big roles, but she was still only 18 (and as people like to point out, was only five years older than the kid who played Sam, whose character is in elementary school). Chiwetel Ejiofor played her husband.

    One of the Wisconsin girls was January Jones. The girls at the airport at the end of the movie were Shannon Elizabeth and Denise Richards. The guy in the porn vignettes was Martin Freeman.

    Natalie was the only major film role Martine McCutcheon ever had, and based on Wikipedia, much of Heike Makatsch’s career (she’s Mia, the secretary) has been in Germany. However, and I did not know this, she was in a relationship with Daniel Craig for seven years.

    Like

  6. peckapalooza says:

    This is a movie that I also really enjoy. Except that I didn’t when I first saw it, actually. I’m not sure what’s happened over the years. It kind of grew on me. Could be that all my exposure to Doctor Who and Downton Abbey has caused me to have a greater appreciation for British culture in general. Jamie and Aurelia are absolutely my favorite love story in the mix. I’d have watched a movie that was only about the two of them.

    Like

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