Posted by: Hannah | 12/19/2013

i actually love Love, Actually

Yesterday was a snow day. A snow day where it rained a lot. Being trapped in the house one week before Christmas with seven kids… yeah. Let us draw a curtain over yesterday, because it was not a fun day.

By the time the last kid finally went to bed (after hogging my laptop for half an hour so he could play Angry Birds, natch) I was done in. I had Big Plans to finally get the gift-wrapping done started, but I only got as far as opening up all the shipping boxes and sorting the contents into piles by kid.

I had a little snack and started watching Love Actually.

A word about one of my favourite little Christmas movies.

It seems to be 2013’s chosen holiday whipping-boy.

Last year, it was Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Remember that? Admitting that you liked the song drew accusations of participating in rape culture. Everyone had an opinion. Some were pretty strident. Seemed like every day some new article was linked in my Facebook news feed telling me that humming cheerfully along with Dean Martin meant I was history’s greatest monster, and it got so tiresome.

Finally this year someone sent me this link from Persephone Magazine that neatly articulated my own personal interpretation of the song, so whew! I can relax. And I’m not hearing as much faux outrage (fauxtrage?) online this year anyway, so I can relax on that score.

This year, everyone is instead ripping apart Love Actually.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect movie. It is not. But these are just some of the reactions I’ve been reading this year:

  • the women in the movie have no voice; they are all passive vessels
  • there is fat-shaming, particularly in the Natalie storyline, but also around Aurelia’s sister
  • the Jamie/Aurelia storyline is ridiculous because they never actually talk together & yet agree to marry
  • Colin, UK sex god, is horrible because he only goes to America looking to get laid
  • Harry is a bad husband and Mia is an unrepentant hussy
  • Mark is a textbook Nice Guy who lusts after his best friend’s wife & unfairly dumps that knowledge on her

And on, and on.

To which I say yes, all of those points are probably true.

And *leans in* I don’t care.

The only storyline that I actually can’t watch because it’s too cringe-worthy is the Sarah/Karl one, probably because Laura Linney and Rodrigo Santoro have zero chemistry. I can’t believe that they have been secretly crushing on one another for two years because it is so painfully awkward every time they are in the same room together. I skipped it last night (yay for DVR!) because it is such a bringdown… although this made me think:

And I think that’s fair, even if the actors couldn’t pull it off convincingly.

Anyway, I love it. I get all weepy and sniffly when the storylines start wrapping up at the end. Unlike Lindy West at Jezebel, I don’t feel this way about airports:

We open in a fucking airport. A fucking AIRPORT!!! Of course Love Actually, the apex of cynically vacant faux-motional cash-grab garbage cinema would hang its BIG METAPHOR on the bleak, empathy-stripped cathedral of turgid bureaucracy known as “the airport.” Of course. And then, of course, Hugh Grant’s voice pipes in to tell us how inspiring and magical the airport is, because when you’re at the airport you can’t help but notice that “love actually IS all around.” THE FUCKING AIRPORT!!!!!

If that’s not the epitome of unexamined privilege—declaring that the airport is your favorite place—then I don’t know what is. Welcome to Love Actually.

 I do in fact love the arrivals area at any airport, because you DO see people when they are super-happy, and if you can stand there frowning and grumbling at the arrivals area you probably have no soul.

Without a doubt my favourite part of the whole movie is the relationship between Daniel and Sam. I’d watch a whole movie with those two.

Anyway, I’m not sure what my point is to all of this, except that I’m kind of wondering what will be next Christmas’ victim.



  1. I’m with you 100%. It’s annual watching for us – Emma Thompson is THE BOMB, love Hugh Grant, and Liam Neeson is divine. Did you know that the kid who plays Sam is now the voice of Ferb on Phineas and Ferb, while the girl who played Joanna is the voice of Ferb’s crush, Vanessa Doofensmirchz? I like to watch that show and imagine they are still together :).

    Also totally agree on the Karl subplot – I love Laura Linney but watching that storyline is just painful. I usually suffer through, though. It’s all part of a lovely package.

    • The kid who plays Sam is also on Game of Thrones now, which I find a head grind every time.

  2. I was just going to mention that Sam being on GoT threw me for SUCH a loop!

    Anyway, I love Love Actually and I will continue to view it during the holidays without guilt or shame. Manifesto to follow:

    No, it’s not particularly realistic and I don’t care. I get enough realism in my job thanks, in my spare time, I prefer to watch movies movies that are perhaps not 100% grounded in reality. While I recognize that the Mark story line is kind of creepy and he’s an ass for dumping his crush on KK’s character, I just kind of put reality in the back of my mind while watching it. Similarly, some people have criticized the fact that Sam has a major crush on a girl he’s never interacted with, to which I respond “Do you actually remember what it was like to be 12?” I had crushes on a whole host of boys with whom I had limited or no interaction at all. I also don’t care that Jamie and Aurelia never talk, it’s fantasy, it’s Colin Firth and that’s enough for me. Finally, I could watch the scene in which Emma Thompson falls apart and pulls it together for her kids every day because she is so very good and the realism of that scene makes up for quite a bit of the unrealistic nature of the rest of it.

    • YES, everything you’ve said in your manifesto. ALL OF IT. I think Emma Thompson does some of her finest work in this movie, I really do. When Alan Rickman says “I’ve been a fool” and she hisses back at him “what’s worse is that you made a fool out of me!”… ohhh boy. The barely-restrained rage in her every word & gesture amazes me.

  3. I’ve never seen it. I know! How is that possible? I guess I’m too busy watching When Harry Met Sally for the billionth time. Anyway, I like airports and I like Baby It’s Cold Outside. DATE RAPE AND ALL.

    • You will LOVE this movie. Seriously. Don’t let another Christmas go by without watching it, OK?

  4. I’m too tired and lazy to itemize my objections to the objections, so I’ll just say that it’s one of the few movies that I can watch entirely without irony (which means, crap, I can never watch it with Eve, although somebody reminded me about the porn part the other day which I had completely forgotten, so maybe it’s better that I figured that out anyway) and I love all of it, unrepentantly (although Mia is a total hussy). I still love the Ella and Louis version of Baby It’s Cold Outside too – I’ll read your links tomorrow when I have the mental energy.

    • Mia is a total hussy. Michael’s comment about that storyline – “Mia is trouble and Harry is a DOG”.

      I watched it on AMC and THEY TOOK OUT THE PORN STORYLINE ENTIRELY. Blasphemy. I really just need to buy the damn DVD.

  5. I’ve seen it once, which, with my memory, leaves me, a couple of years later, with absolutely no memories of it. None, so I can’t comment on ANYTHING that you’ve written … One thing I do remember? I really liked it. Now you’ve to me wanting to watch it again, because I know I will love it again. I will go rummage up the DVD forthwith. Thanks for that!

    • It’s so delightful. I laugh, I cry, it’s cathartic.

  6. Have we done this before on someone else’s blog or am I having deja vu?

    I watched Love Actually when it first came out and then last year — mmm, maybe it was the year before that… either way, it is NOT a movie that ages well. Maybe I’m just jumping on the hate-fuelled bandwagon, or maybe it was ill conceived to trumpet the 10 year anniversary, but still, you could not pay me to watch the movie again. This is because I am still not over Laura Linney chosing (brace yourself I’m going to go full caps lock on your blog) FOR NOT HAVING SEX WITH KARL BECAUSE HER BROTHER — WHO IS AMERICAN AND YET FOR SOME REASON HAS BEEN ADMITTED TO AN ENGLISH MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY!?!? — HAD UNFETTERED ACCESS TO A PHONE AND SHE’S TOO MUCH OF A WUSS TO LET IT GO TO VOICE MAIL! He’s in care! He’s safe! He is not in crisis! Has she never broached the topic of his phone obsession with his health care team?! Also she has no airport denouement. Which is just further proof that her storyline is lame.

    That being said…

    I would prefer it if there was more Colin Frizzell. And the writer/Aurelia story is cute. Plus I never noticed the “fat shaming” theme. I think the dude infatuated w/ his friend’s bride is cute — I don’t need to read anymore into it. And while I am equally fond of Emma Thompson’s storyline, it’s odd to see it played off the lightness of Colin’s sexcapades. That’s a storyline and characters I want to see more of. Emma needed her own movie. Also there’s no way Hugh Grant is her OLDER brother. HA!

    In conclusion: I would also fast forward thru the Sarah/Karl scenes WITHOUT GUILT.

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