I hate to break it to you, fellow millennials, but Love Actually is almost 20 years old. I remember how popular the movie was when it first premiered back in 2003 — so popular, in fact, that my friend wanted to watch the Christmas flick in the middle of the summer. The movie was a massive hit around the world, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars, and I guess why wouldn't it be? It starred basically every British star on the planet, from Alan Rickman to Emma Thompson, featured Hugh Grant dancing to '80s pop, and was all about love.
Or was it?
Here's the thing. While I was a past devotee to the Richard Curtis film, as the movie has aged, and myself right along with it, I have to admit — I kind of hate it now. If I'm being honest, I hate it a lot, and my most recent viewing of the movie confirmed what I've thought for years: This movie about love is actually not about love at all.
I know, I know. You love this movie. You love when the impish little kid runs after his crush in the airport, and when Colin Firth declares his love for his Portuguese housekeeper. You love that sign scene with Keira Knightley (I'll get into that later). By now, you know the movie features multiple storylines about love — or so we're meant to believe.
But hear me out as I refresh your memory about this garbage fire of a flick that belongs on the curb next to your Christmas tree. With that said, let's look at what love "actually" is in the case of each couple in this questionable Christmas classic.
The Prime Minister and Natalie
The white male gaze is alive and well in the mid-aughts, so naturally, Hugh Grant is our protagonist. He has a crush on his tea lady (yes, I believe that's her job title), Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), who's sexually harassed and maybe even assaulted by the American president (Billy Bob Thornton). Hugh witnesses this, doesn't ask her about it, and doesn't intervene, but he does get his big hero moment thanks to a self-indulgent, pro-Britain speech aimed at the United States.
Then, in the next scene, he fires her. Worse (or maybe equally bad?) are the continuous digs at her weight, including a particularly venomous scene with the PM's personal secretary about her thighs and ass, as well as the last scene of the movie, which involves Hugh hoisting her at the airport before saying, "God, you weigh a lot." This is the last line in the film. I wish I were kidding.
What love “is”: Even an upper-class, privileged PM can fall in love with a working-class, curvy woman who swears like a sailor?
Jamie and His Housekeeper Aurelia
This storyline is almost the same as above, except Jamie (Colin Firth) isn't the prime minister. However, he is another upper-class, privileged straight white man who falls in love with another working-class woman (Lucia Moniz) amid more "fat jokes" (aimed this time at Aurelia's sister). Just one thing, though: They don't speak the same language and can't carry on a conversation. It's rather ludicrous when you think about it.
There are two incredibly cringey moments in this plot. The first is when Aurelia strips down to her underwear to save Jamie's manuscript, which has blown into the lake. Of course the camera gratuitously scans her entire body, making a clear stop on her lower back tattoo. The second is when Jamie attempts to sweep Aurelia off her feet at her family's restaurant so he can make a wife out of her. Her dad initially mistakes him for buying her as his personal servant — and he's totally OK with this! Whaaaaat?
What love “is”: I'm not sure. I think it's that love has no language if you're hot AF. But call me crazy; I don't think that's sustainable for a long-term relationship. Hopefully, Jamie has DuoLingo.
Juliet, Peter, and Mark
This storyline is the ickiest if you ask me. Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) just got married, and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is Peter's best friend and best man. He also happens to be obsessed with Juliet. He filmed their wedding and got no shots of the groom — just closeups of Juliet and her big smile. OK, we know Keira and her brows are gorgeous, but this part of the movie is plain creepy.
Well, not as creepy as when Mark shows up at Juliet's door in the most memorable scene of the movie. "To me, you are perfect" sounds romantic — when not directed at a married woman who happens to be married to your best friend. But would we expect anything less than a passive-aggressive conversation purely in handwritten signs from a man who has been nothing but rude to the object of his attention and does this all behind the back of his so-called best friend?
And where is Peter in all of this? I barely remembered he was in the movie. What a pity. It seems like Juliet and Peter's love story could really have been something extraordinary... that is, if it was featured in a movie that was actually about love.
What love “is”: It’s unrequited, not to mention kind of creepy and intrusive.
Sarah and Karen
Is it to anyone's surprise that a misogynistic movie would prevent its female leads from having a fulfilling love life? Yeah, didn't think so. Anyway, poor Sarah (Laura Linney) can't get laid (and potentially fall in love) with the handsome Carl because she's a woman, and therefore puts everyone, like her mentally ill brother, ahead of herself and her own happiness.
Then, of course, there's Karen (Emma Thompson). For the record, Emma's acting is far too good for this movie. That explains why the only scene in the film worthy of eliciting real emotions is when she realizes her dick of a husband (played by the late, great Alan Rickman) is cheating on her with his much younger secretary. But also, I must note, Karen chastised her brother (Liam Neeson) for crying the day before his dead wife's funeral and even called him a "sissy," so maybe it's karma? Either way, the message here is that older women are cold, undesirable, and pretty much all-around losers. Niiiiice.
What love “is”: Well, it’s not fulfilling for a woman, especially if you're older and have dependents.
To Sum It All Up
OK, I definitely could go on — especially when it comes to the storyline of Colin and his American girls (basically, if you're British and dorky, go to America to get laid by some ditzy American women) or the two porno stand-ins (one question: why?). There are some positive highlights to the movie, like... the soundtrack. Yes, the soundtrack, featuring Dido, Joni Mitchell, and Kelly Clarkson, is decent. But if you're looking for something to cheer you up this holiday season and help you believe in love again, um, this isn't the movie for you, actually.