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IN SHORT: Why writers shouldn't necessarily direct. [Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language. 135 minutes]
The tasks of Directing and Writing film have one word in common: focus. A director not only has to keep his cameraman on the ball, he's also got to keep all his stories balanced proportionally to yield a good sit. Half that task should have been properly handled by the editing pen of the Writer but when one brain is handling both jobs, problems can ensue. Writer Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Tall Guy; co-writer of Bridget Jones's Diary, Bean) knows how to write. First time director Richard Curtis should have told his directorial side to learn how to cut, for that's what his debut needs, in spades. Too many stars means too much story that can't be discarded because, face it, he's got too many stars packed into the program. To wit:
David, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Hugh Grant) has the hots for staff member Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). His sister Karen's (Emma Thompson) previously stable and very long term marriage to Harry (Alan Rickman) is potentially threatened by the presence of a hot, young office worker named Mia (Heike Makatsch). Harry's subordinate Sarah (Laura Linney) has desperate hots for Carl (Rodrigo Santoro) . . .
Take a deep breath, folks, we're nowhere close to finished . . .
Billy Bob Thornton guest stars as the President of the United States, where widower Daniel (Liam Neeson) plans to move with son Sam (Thomas Sangster). That move would get in the way of Sam's desperate and unvoiced love for a classmate (Olivia Olson)
. . . breathe . . .
and Love, lust actually, is the reason for Colin Frissell's (Kris Marshall) move to Milwaukee, 'cuz he thinks his accent will do him more good there than in his homeland, women-wise. Denise Richards will agree with that . . .
Halfway there, folks . . .
Writer Jamie (Colin Firth) secluded himself in a lakeside cabin and still managed to find love with Portuguese speaking housekeeper Aurelia (Lucia Moniz); aging rock star Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), whose manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) has stuck by him through thick and thin, cuts a Christmas single which is his last hope for success . . .
. . . ah, the heck with it. We're not about to flesh out other stories about newlyweds Peter and Juliet (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Keira Knightley) and best man Mark (Andrew Lincoln) and/or department store salesman Rufus (Rowan Atkinson) or Nancy the caterer (Julia Davis) . . . There's more but we're going to stop. All these potential relationships, or the endings thereof, play out in the months before Christmas -- don't worry about having to follow (eight) different endings, Curtis is kind enough to write an epilog set a month after Christmas for which he gives us (eight) more endings. It's a wonderful thing to get your money's worth from a motion picture. It's not so wonderful if so much is crammed in that the relationships are set up as thick as the paper this review is printed on...
...which it's not, which is why Love Actually will be much better appreciated on the small screen. Alternatively, if you're just looking for two hours to spend with a date before getting down to the important stuff, Love Actually is lightweight and entertaining enough that it will fill that bill, too. We don't recommend the extra large popcorn combo. This film is far too long to keep nature at bay -- even in the isolation of the critic's row at our sneak we heard moaning and complaining, and all from viewers who later applauded at the credits. How's that for a mixed compliment.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Love Actually, he would have paid . . .
If you're settle in your relationship, wait and rent. If you're still dating, add a buck to reach or "dateflick" level. If you're a Rowan Atkinson fan, rent something else.
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