I've been hearing pretty good things about Love Actually, so when Mary Anne suggested it for this afternoon (as part of a sort of anniversary date) I said sure.
It turned out to be fabulous. Totally utterly completely charming. It's heavy-handed in bits, and predictable in places (though several things surprised me a great deal), and one or two jokes fall flat (there are especially too many fat jokes), and a bit too sappy and obviously manipulative in various ways. But those were all minor flaws. I commented earlier this evening that this movie joins Four Weddings and a Funeral and Two Weeks Notice as one of my three favorite romantic comedies (yes, I appear to be even more of a sucker for Hugh Grant movies than I thought I was); that turns out not to be necessarily true, depending on how you define romantic comedy (Singin' in the Rain? When Harry Met Sally? Wizard of Speed and Time? Moonstruck? Better than Chocolate?), but it's definitely in my top ten, and among my favorite movies seen this year.
And though I can't quite say it transcends its genre (somehow I always end up saying that about movies), it does have more serious stuff and more richness of character than I'd have expected, particularly after my disappointment with Notting Hill.
The cast is pretty much uniformly excellent. I don't know that I found Hugh Grant entirely believable as the Prime Minister, but he was so damn charming I didn't care. Colin Firth is lovely as always. Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, and especially Emma Thompson are superb as usual. Keira Knightley continues to demonstrate that she's not only attractive but also remarkably versatile, with her fourth wildly different role in as many years. (Mary Anne, I forgot to mention that Knightley was also the female lead in Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, and she's 18 and a half years old.) Martine McCutcheon as Natalie and Lúcia Moniz as Aurelia also do fine work. As does Laura Linney (who was in The Truman Show but whose face looked familiar to me mostly because she played Mary Ann Singleton in the Tales of the City miniseries). Oh, and Billy Bob Thornton is suitably vile in a small part as the US President, and Rowan Atkinson does his thing well as usual in a similarly small part. And Thomas Sangster (who can't be more than ten or eleven, I think) was also great. And so on—the ads and summaries for this talk about there being ten main characters, but I count at least seventeen.
If you watch this in a cynical mood, you'll hate it. If you hate Christmas, you'll probably hate this movie. If you're annoyed by sappiness, you'll probably hate it. But I totally adored it.