Love Actually Is Full Of Terrible People, Actually
Another year, another chance to get the sh*t kicked out of us by Love Actually, a feel-good Christmas rom-com full of awful people.
I’d like to clarify, this movie is one of my favourites around the holidays. In fact, I’d even say I love Love Actually. I always giggle at Martin Freeman and Joanna Page’s nude stand-ins, Liam Neeson helping his stepson win the love of his life always sweeps me up, and Laura Linney’s story breaks my heart every time.
Yet, after Hugh Grant’s saccharine opening narration in Heathrow Airport, Richard Curtis batters us with some terrible human beings who make you want to scream, ‘F*ck wank bugger sh*tting arse head and hole!’
Before we get into the meat of it, some characters who dance around the fringes. Kris Marshall’s Colin’s expectancy of sex from beautiful women just because they’re American and he’s British is a bit sexist, but he’s too much of a smiley idiot to attract any major criticism (plus, the film hilariously indulges in his naive fantasy).
Bill Nighy’s Billy Mack is often nasty towards his manager (Gregor Fisher), but he eventually turns it around – also, I’m never going to be the person who slams Nighy for anything. He’s a legend.
Grant’s Prime Minister (the jury’s still out on whether he’s a Tory or figment of New Labour) is constantly, improbably likeable, although he dispatches Martine McCutcheon rather harshly. Thankfully, his bitterness doesn’t last.
There’s others who have brief, if even off-screen mentions as mean or creepy individuals: there’s ‘Kevin’ the breast-fondler; the leering, bullying President of the United States (Billy Bob Thornton); McCutcheon’s ex-boyfriend who called her fat; and Nina Sosanya, who also calls her a ‘chubby girl’. I’m almost tempted to name Curtis on the list for courting the idea McCutcheon could be seen as fat by anyone, when she’s nowhere even close. Madness and maddening.
The movie opens with Colin Firth heading out to a wedding on his own, with his ‘ill’ girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) choosing to stay home. ‘I love you even when you’re sick and disgusting,’ he says, to which she replies, ‘I know… get out loser.’
However, the jig’s up when he returns home to find his brother (Dan Fredenburgh). He says he came to borrow some CDs, before ‘the lady of the house’ shouts, ‘Hurry big boy, I’m naked and I want you at least twice before Jamie gets home.’ Grim, and that’s only the beginning of the bad people.
Next up, the love triangle between Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The latter actor gets off the hook as neither a bad person nor a good one, as he does almost nothing to make any impression.
The other two are… problematic. Lincoln is noticeably curt in any interaction with Knightley, who believes he doesn’t like her. After watching her and Ejiofor’s wedding video, taped by Lincoln, the reality becomes abundantly clear from the constant close-ups on her face. She’s bamboozled, and he’s living his worst nightmare that she knows, trying to explain his actions: ‘It’s a self-preservation thing, you see.’
Cherish this last moment of sympathy for him. The video may be a bit weird, but he was lovesick, tortured by his best friend having his dream woman. It’s hard not to feel for him as he struts around London to Dido’s Here With Me.
Then, he goes to their house armed with placards. Knightley lies and tells her new husband it’s carol singers, while Lincoln gets everything off his chest. ‘But for now, let me say, without hope or agenda, just because it’s Christmas (and at Christmas you tell the truth), to me, you are perfect.’
Without hope or agenda? Bullsh*t. There’s no way. Coming to your best friend’s home to secretly confess your love for his wife is already extremely inappropriate… then she comes out and gives him a kiss. ‘Enough, enough now,’ he says, delighted with his and Knightley’s disloyalty.
I get the sentiment, but they’re both guilty, and when the trio arrive at the airport in the epilogue, all is fine – what he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him, eh?
At second place on the terrible ranking is Heike Makatsch’s Mia, Alan Rickman’s office assistant. The flirting is barely subtle at first – ‘I’ll just be waiting around the mistletoe, waiting to be kissed’ – before becoming impossibly, embarrassingly sultry. I mean, she describes the party venue as being ‘full of dark corners for doing dark deeds’ before slightly opening her legs.
When the party comes along, she rocks up in devil’s horns (despite the distinct lack of fancy dress elsewhere) asking for a dance with the boss. He tells her she looks pretty, to which she says, ‘It’s for you, it’s all for you, sir.’ Just, stop. I beg you to stop. Alas, the implication later is them having slept together.
All this said, she’s not secretive in her actions. Brazen, yes, but not trying to hide it. Unlike Love Actually’s number one horrible person: Rickman, who betrays his wife (Emma Thompson).
Throughout the film, he engages in Mia’s advances with minimal resistance. He tries to feign ignorance when Thompson says she’s pretty, with him replying, ‘Is she?’ But later, he heinously tries to buy her a gold necklace while out shopping with his wife (nearly foiled by Rowan Atkinson’s gift-wrapping).
When Thompson finds the necklace, she assumes it’s for her and feels at ease after any anxiety about him losing interest. Upon opening her square-shaped box with great excitement, she discovers a Joni Mitchell CD. She knows he’s cheating, retreating to her room alone to listen to Both Sides, Now in agony. ‘And if you care, don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away.’
Thompson is one of the kindest people in the movie, offering up tough love to Neeson when he needs to ‘get a grip’ and humouring her and Rickman’s children’s lobster-starring nativity. Nobody, I mean nobody, is allowed to do that to her. When she confronts him later, and his extent of his actions hit him, her devastated face only stirs up more anger. How dare he?
Through the laughs and sickly sweet sentiment, Love Actually will always boil my blood. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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