Christmas Film Advent- Love Actually (2003)


“This is shit, isn’t it?”
“Aye, solid gold shit…”

Watching from DVD
Length: 2Hr 15

Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

 The 2003 Richard Curtis penned festive movie that also doubles as the whose who of British talent in the early millennium. There are some excellent threads, perfect casting but equally there are some plots and people who could have remained on the cutting room floor.

The Good

Upon watching this for the first time, the narrative that has now become a formula for holiday based films was refreshing with that brilliant final act that brought all the threads together. I was worried that watching it today would seem a little cliqued and forced. I’m glad that its still novel and charming as it was the first time around.

America needs a president like Bartlett (West Wing). Britain is in need of a Love Actually Prime Minster. He’s the love child of Tony Blair and Richard Curtis and the perfect annecdote for our current political shitstorm. Such a shame both Barlett and PM Grant are complete works of fiction. However, the audience at least get a wonderful Curtis fiction in which the Oxbridge trained head of state is ‘so Labour’ that he’s caught dancing to chart topping music and falls for working class potty mouth Natalie, played by Martine McCutcheon at her height of her soap star fame.

Its a heartbreaking plot thread in hindsight, but Liam Neeson’s Daniel has one of the best stories in the whole film. There aren’t many films that address grief at Christmas (that’s actually a lie, seriously Christmas films are dark; The Apartment, The Family Stone, Christmas with the Coopers to name just a few that come to mind in regards to death at Christmas), let alone unpack it in such a heartfelt way that Love Actually does.
While adjusting to life as a single parent, Daniel is thrown the curve ball of his pre-teen step-son admitting that he’s fallen in love and that it sucks almost as much as losing his mum. Neeson’s relationship with a pre-Thrones Thomas Brodie-Sangster is nothing short of electric. If the film had been made just about their quest to woo Sam’s girl I would have happily watched as the self aware plan lends itself very nicely to a romantic dash through an airport.

Bill Nighy as Billy Mack staeals the show. Playing a faded rock star who is unashamedly on a promotion campaign for Christmas number one with a cheap rewording of another Richard Curtis theme song. It’s satire up to 11 and you can tell Nighy is enjoying every second of it. 

The Bad

It’s rather a shame that there are some redundant narratives that the removal of would see this become a much more family friendly affair. Namely Colin, played by My Family’s Kris Marshall. While his character, Nick, was a fan favourite on the BBC flagship comedy, his upgrade to the silver screen just shows how much of a small two-dimensional fish in an epic-ally large pond the actor is. At the time, he was a welcome addition, but I’ve really not enjoyed it this viewing.
The second being The Office and Gavin & Stacey make a porno. Its a story and it has a cute, happy ending, but get rid of Just Judy’s (Gavin & Stacey’s Joanna Paige) tits and John’s (Martin Freeman) grinding and you cut the movie down to a decent length and open the film up to a lower age grading.

2003 Hannah was very much loving everything Alan Rickman was in. It was my sole motivation for going to see this at the London Road Odeon one Thursday in the run up to Christmas. Good guy, bad guy; I didn’t normally care. My favourite roles being Die Hard and Robin Hood, this should be a performance I’d be, at the very least, indifferent to.
That’s not to say Rickman’s performance was bad. On the contrary, it was one of his best performances and I love his scenes with Laura Linney, his work colleague who has a long standing crush on Karl.
However, in a film about love it is the breakdown of his relationship with Emma Thompson’s Karen that ensures that I don’t make this a yearly watch during the yuletide. While I’ve become immune to the tears that well during the wedding surprise of ‘all you need is love’, I will always cry at Karen’s disappointed face as she opens that present. This is perhaps a case of not being able to see past the actors because every time I mentally shout ‘no one hurts Emma Thompson like that’. I want Rickman’s head removed, with a spoon.
It also doesn’t help that there’s no chemistry between Rickman and Makatsch. The fault seems to lie at the character of Mia; there’s no true feeling there; she doesn’t fancy Harry. Nor is there a sense that she’s simply trying to manipulate Rickman’s Harry for something grander than a gift and a fumble.

The Ugly

Rowan Atkinson. Someone had a cunning plan by putting the Blackadder star in a cameo role; its a shame that for me its on par with pure green being the next gold. There’s no doubt that the man is a comic genius and is a cameleon when it comes to his performances. With so many approaches that Atkinson could have taken with this shop assistant I loath that Rufus is closer to Bean and Baldrick than the mighty Blackadder.
It’s a scene that I cringe at every time I watch the film. It’s only worsened by Thompson’s disappointment that the gift she opens is not what Atkinson wraps.

Colin Firth is truly a British treasure, and his plot thread is inoffensive enough. It’s just that in a film that over runs by about 30 – 45 minutes, its the one story I don’t warm to and doesn’t get enough screen time to really play out. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s so disenfranchised from the rest of the movie, or that he’s only reintroduced at the halfway point.

Now, I’m off to watch the first premiere viewing of a Christmas film. All devices will be stowed away… only to be brought out if the film is boring.

Han x

Christmas Movie Advent- Arthur Christmas (2011)


“Santa, we know we shouldn’t believe rumours, but we do.”

Watching on Netflix
Length: 1Hr 37

Santa’s clumsy son Arthur sets out on a mission with St. Nick’s father to give out a present they misplaced to a young girl in less than 2 hours.

The Good

What an adorable addition to the Christmas movie fleet. With an all-star voice cast bringing the Santa family to life, you can’t help but feeling charmed and warmed by the story of the youngest Santa, who doesn’t quite fit the traditional expectations.

Arthur is voiced by James McAvoy and is passionate, clumsy and everything you want in the Christmas spirit. The character reminds me of the comedian Kieran Hodgson and he’d made a perfect live action counterpart.

The story brings together the old and the new. Tradition and technology are at the heart of the story that truly is about bringing joy and truly caring. It’s a message that can sometimes get lost. Evie, the traditional sleigh and Bill Nighey’s Grandsanta prove that there’s sometimes fault in relying in new routines.

There’s so many wonderful touches in this film; from the user manual for the S1, the batteries inside the toy and next in line santa’s Christmas camo uniform. And on that note, Steve is a welcome addition to the Santa role call. A character that is slightly removed from the true message of Christmas has been given the perfect actor to voice it. Hugh Laurie’s distinctive tones fit well among a high hitter family that also includes Broadbent. It also took a curious turn by not making Steve an outright antagonist. So often his character would be so hell bent on gaining the power that he would not be redeemable (2011’s Hop comes to mind). Thankfully, this feel allows the character to realise his strengths and accept there’s someone else to embrace his weakness’.

The Bad & Ugly

Clutching at straws here brings me to the fact that this charming beauty of a film is lacking a sequel. I saw clutching at straws because I’m not certain a sequel is needed. This was a self contained, charming film and the only thing that has me wanting a sequel is the fact that its so good that I’m quite curious to see what Sarah Smith and Peter Baynham could offer us again.

That’s all folks

That’s it for today’s advent calendar. See you tomorrow when Bill Nighey and Martin Freeman will be popping back into the festive countdown.

Han x