Saturday, December 22, 2012

25 Days of Christmas Movies 2012 - Day 22: Love is All Around

If there's anything that we all can agree on, it's that the Holiday season is largely about love.  We share love with our families, our friends, our significant others, and all the rest of the special people in our lives.  So it shouldn't be surprising that a good chunk of romantic comedies take place on Christmas, given the built in seasonal expectations and universal appeal of the holiday.  One of my favorites incorporates a great deal of Christmas cliches, music, and customs into an ensemble piece that features some of my favorite British actors and actresses.  It is a story about how love exists everywhere in the world around us in many different ways, all we have to do is look for it.  I give you, Love Actually.

The film begins with a voiceover from David (Hugh Grant) commenting that whenever he gets gloomy with the state of the world he thinks about the arrivals terminal at Heathrow Airport, and the pure uncomplicated love felt as friends and families welcome their arriving loved ones. David's voiceover also relates that all the messages left by the people who died on the 9/11 planes were messages of love and not hate. The film then tells the 'love stories' of many people including an author who falls for his Portuguese housekeeper but is unable to communicate with her, a husband and wife who are growing apart, a woman who loves her co-worker but must care for a brother with a disability, and a man who's best friend just married the love of his life.  During the course of the film the stories intertwine and some will turn out well and some will fail...but that's how love works isn't it?

The message of Richard Curtis' 2003 romantic comedy behemoth, Love Actually, which showcased no less than 13 celebrities in starring and supporting roles and also featured at least 4 or 5 separate romantic storylines that interweave in and out of each other, is so simple that it almost seems to go missed by many.  Curtis wanted to show that, even in dark times like ours when events like 9/11 can make us doubt that the sun will shine again (yes, I'm being overdramatic for a purpose), love is everywhere if you look for it. And this film, set in the weeks leading up to Christmas in London, has almost all of it. Young love, old love, wounded love, lost love, parent/child love, first love, family love, etc. You name it, its there. Yes, some of the tales are just so precious you might want to brush your teeth afterwards from all the sweetness, but conversely some of the stories are bittersweet and/or complete failures (such as Laura Linney's thread with her sexy co-worker or Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman's tiny saga) and in doing this, Curtis creates one of the most realistic romantic comedies ever made. I don't mean realistic in that in real life anytime you walk around the corner love could run right smack into, but it is difficult to deny that somewhere around you, someone is expressing love. And its not just romantic love. We love our friends, we love our pets, we (sometimes) love our jobs, and we love our family. Love, contrary to what some films show, is not just about falling in love with a mate. Love is also the small kinds of things that we take for granted in our everyday lives. And yes, Curtis does develop the romantic plots a little more than the other subtle love plots, but he kinda has to. I mean, that's what we came to see. However, one cannot scoff at love the way it is used in the film because he really has tried to include so many varieties of it. Its rather a corny concept actually and I'm amazed that he got it made...but the finished product is one of my favorite feel-good experiences. And what better time is there to feel-good than at Christmastime?

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