“Love, Actually”: Our Love/Hate Relationship

by: Addison Bell

When it comes to Christmas movies, my mom and I have our favorites. We watch It’s a Wonderful Life when we put up our Christmas tree (one day, I will tell someone, “You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”) The movie theatre in our small town always plays a Christmas movie the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year it was National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which is also a staple in our collection. We also have to watch The Family Stone, A Christmas Story, and, of course, Love, Actually.

When it was released in 2003, Love, Actually instantly became one of my favorite Christmas movies. It’s funny, the cast is amazing, Colin Firth actually smiles in it, Bill Nighly is hysterical, et al. There are so many reasons to love Love Actually. But when I watched it in order to write this article, I found many reasons to hate it.

What makes me angry is the way most of the women are portrayed or treated in the movie. Some of them are in subordinate positions compared to the men in the film or they’re overly promiscuous.

Hugh Grant goes for his secretary and ultimately fires her because the president of the U.S. (another reason I hate the movie) makes a move on her. Of course, he ends up going door-to-door trying to find her so that he can tell her that he loves her, which I think is incredibly romantic. I also hate how everyone refers to the secretary as “the chubby girl.” She’s not chubby! Even if she was, who cares? At least she’s not like friggin’ Keira Knightley, who looks like a prepubescent girl.

Then there’s Colin Firth. I absolutely adore Firth, and he’s extremely adorable in Love, Actually — because he’s like that awkward guy who has a crush on you and says all of the wrong things, and you think it’s super sweet, but you really just want to grab and kiss him (especially if the guy looks like Colin Firth). You feel terrible for Firth’s character, Jamie, because his wife has an affair with Jamie’s brother. It’s so painful to see Jamie happy and in love at the beginning of the movie, but then to see him so devastated (until he meets Aurelia). It’s like seeing a kitten being separated from his mom (have you ever seen that? It’s one of the saddest things ever).

He escapes to the countryside to write a book (he’s a crime/mystery novelist), and in the country he falls in love with his maid, which is another example of a man falling for his subordinate. I hate that she jumps into the pond when the pages of his new book (I think it’s incredibly dumb that he uses a typewriter and doesn’t back up his work) are swept into it. If I was that girl, I would be like, “I’m not getting to that water. This isn’t Titanic. It’s your fault, dumbass. Use a computer.”

And I hate how Aurelia’s father is so quick to practically sell her off to Jamie. And I hate how the father makes fun of the sister because she’s fat. Even though Jamie and Aurelia storyline is one of my favorites in the movie, it’s incredibly flawed and extremely irritating to watch.  I still can’t get over the fact that he uses a typewriter outside. When it’s windy. And he didn’t back up his work.

The Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman storyline is the one that makes me the angriest. Thompson and Rickman are married in the film, but then Rickman’s character, Harry, gets stupid and has an affair with the rather promiscuous character Mia (Harry is her boss).

First, who would ever cheat on someone like Thompson? I mean, she’s absolutely flawless and so witty. “No one’s ever going to shag you if cry all of the time,” she says to Liam Neelson’s character. Love it. Secondly, it scares me that Rickman is so creepy. When Mia hits on him, all I can think about is Snape. The fact that she’s seducing Snape freaks me the hell out. I want to fast-forward or hide under the covers.

And I hate that every time I watch the movie, I cry when Karen opens up her Christmas present from her husband and instead of finding the golden necklace (he gives it Mia. What a fool) she finds a Joni Mitchell CD. What’s even more devastating is that Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” (probably one of the saddest songs ever) plays when Karen quietly cries in her bedroom. It’s heartbreaking.

Another older female character in the film is Sarah, brilliantly played by Laura Linney. Sarah is in love with Karl, one of her coworkers. It’s clear that both of them are interested in each other, but I’m still puzzled as to how Karl is single. He’s like Orlando Bloom x 5. It’s why I get so excited when Sarah and Karl go back to her place, because they’re the two characters that I really want to end up with each other, mostly because I want to see Sarah happy. I love when she jumps up and down from the excitement of having Karl in her apartment.

But in the midst of love making, Sarah keeps getting calls from her brother, who is mentally ill. She ends up choosing her brother over Karl, which is so touching, but so sad. Whenever I watch the scene and her phone keeps going off, I scream, “Press the ignore button! Turn it off!” But alas, she does not. It kills me that Sarah does not find love because she deserves it.

I also hate the American girls in the film. Despise them, really. I don’t understand why the Colin storyline is even necessary. He’s not even that funny. He’s like that kid in high school who everyone thinks is hilarious, but you really think he’s one of the most annoying kids you’ve ever met. It’s cute that he finds love (or maybe it’s just sex), but I hate how all of the American girls are like, “He’s hot. Listen to accent. I want to fuck him because he’s from London!” Come on, ladies! Really?

And perhaps one of the most irritating storylines is the Mark and Julia one. It’s so tragic that Mark is in love with his best friend’s wife, but the way he’s so cold to her drives me up the wall. It’s like Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth, Colin Firth, Colin Firth) to the extreme. And she’s so nice to him! She brings him a pastry! I would swoon over someone who did that for me.

Anyway, I also think it’s a little weird when Julia comes over to Mark’s place to watch her wedding footage, but then she discovers that all of the footage that Mark is filmed is of her. What a creeper. If I was Julia and I was in Mark’s apartment, I would run away screaming. Or I would get out my mace. However, one of the most romantic parts in the movie is when Mark show’s up to Julia’s flat with the poster boards that read, “To me, you are perfect—and my wasted heart will love you.” It’s a scene that requires a lot of Kleenex.

I also really hate that I’m over-analyzing a movie that is meant to be taken as is. I hate that I’m ruining one of my favorite movies because of this article. The truth is, despite it’s flaws, I really do love Love Actually, mostly because I’m a hopeless romantic. It makes me hopeful that one day someone will go door-to-door in order to find me; that one day someone will learn a foreign language for me; that someone will tell me, “You are perfect.” This will probably never happen, and by watching this film, I’m setting myself up to lose. But that’s okay. I would be okay with someone getting me a Joni Mitchell CD.

Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow him on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.

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