Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Worst Films: #2: Love Actually (2003)

When Ponty submitted this week’s review, he made the submission twice, because the first one was apparently so laced with profanity, he believed the delicate sensibilities of my readers might protest.  So he resubmitted this review, which, while lacking the language of the original (besides one well-placed f-bomb), still retains the vitriolic evisceration this film so richly deserves.

I vaguely remember when this flick hit the theaters.  I was in high school, or just starting college, and the assistant pastor at church apparently watched it with his wife—until he turned it off in disgust.  I’ve never watched it, but from Ponty’s review, I’m glad I didn’t.  The pastor was right, though you’d think a man of the cloth would have exercised a bit more discretion and discernment before popping this worldly tripe into his DVD player.

When we look about at the state of the world today, and especially of romantic relationships, it’s pretty clear they’re in a bad way.  Men and women distrust each other.  Everyone is out to get whatever will make them feel good, no matter what the consequences to themselves or others.  Broken hearts litter the dating scene like shattered glass in an alleyway.

And it’s all in the name of “love.”  Actually, it’s all in the name of lust.  Satan is good at taking something beautiful—Biblical love—and turning into a tawdry, disgraceful knock-off.

This film surely is one of myriad examples of Satan disseminating this perverted view of “love” to the masses.  Ponty’s review, while uproariously funny and biting, also picks up on this important insight, albeit in a far more entertaining and far less preachy manner.

With that, here’s Ponty’s #2 pick, 2003’s Love Actually:

Fans of The Walking Dead (2010-22) will remember the episodes in Season 7 where Daryl, captured by the menacing Negan and his saviours, is locked in a small, darkened cell and ‘treated’ to an upbeat ditty, “Easy Street,” by The Collapsable Hearts Club. It’s one of those tunes that can get stuck in your head. Sure, listening to it every once in a while, at a Summer barbecue or playing on someone else’s car radio, won’t bother you much. You might end up nodding your head or tapping your feet to it. But imagine you had a neighbour who played it on repeat or, God forbid, it was the only song in the world and was played every day, endlessly. Trust me, you’d go mad. You’d make it your life’s mission to find and destroy every one of those records or at least, the devices they used. Someone on Youtube paid homage to these parts of The Walking Dead by making a 10 hour torture session of “Easy Street” played back to back. I’m going to pop it up and ask how long it took you to listen to it before you turned it off. Problem is, even when you turn it off, it’ll already be in your head and you’ll be mad, mad I tell you, at me for even putting it up:

You’re going to ask me what the hell that has to do with the film I’m reviewing today. Well, every time the word ‘love’ is used in this film, it is accompanied by what is supposed to be a delightful wind tune but is really the sort of annoying, cliched, and cheesy repetition that makes me want to grab that clarinet, or whatever it is, and firmly shove it up the player’s, well, you know. Somewhere he’ll have trouble finding it anyway.

Let me begin this by saying that there had to be a Kiera Knightley film in my top 10. She is a disgrace to British acting, of which there is much talent, and has been from the moment she foisted her pointed chin onto celluloid. She screeches like a mad feminist and has the talent of a toilet brush. Does anyone remember that awful war cry she gives at the end of the 3rd Pirates film? Urgh. It felt like nails down a blackboard.

That said, her director for this film, Richard Curtis, is no better. I still find it difficult to believe that he brought us the brilliant comedy series Blackadder (1982). I can’t think of a single film he has done that I like but this one is saccharine from start to finish. So sickly sweet, it’ll rot your teeth and have you choking on your beer for every 5 seconds of frame.

Love Actually sees several different people trying to cope with the pitfalls of their varied lives around the holiday season.

Jamie (Colin Firth) moves out to his cottage in France, after he catches his girlfriend in bed with his brother, for some quiet time and falls in love with his Portuguese housemaid.

The new Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) is battling tensions with the American President (Billy Bob Thornton) while also struggling not to fall in love with his receptionist, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon).

Daniel (Liam Neeson) has lost his wife and distracts himself by helping his son, Sam (Thomas Sangster), learn how to play the drums so he can woo the lead singer who he’s ‘in love with.’ Urgh.

Juliet (Kiera Knightley) is marrying Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) but Mark (Andrew Lincoln), Peter’s best friend, is suppressing a burning desire for Juliet, so much so that he waits until she’s married before he reveals his secret to her.

Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson) are married but Harry is going through a mid-life crisis and is tempted by his receptionist who tries what she can to seduce him.

Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is making a comeback with a tawdry version of Wet Wet Wet’s “Love is All Around” (in this case, “Christmas is All Around”) and realises that away from the artificial life of a rock star, his only true friend is his longsuffering manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher).

Sarah (Laura Linney) is in lust with her work colleague, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) but struggles to develop a relationship with him, first through shyness and then because the responsibility of her mentally ill brother comes first.

Colin (Kris Marshall) is consistently rebuffed by English women and believing them to be frigid, decides to cross the pond to get laid.

John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are already getting jiggy before they start to develop a relationship – they’re body doubles during sex scenes for films.

All of the characters are connected in some way – whether related or friends of friends – but their stories are limited to their immediate milieu. The endings for each of the chapters are as predictable as they are stomach churning. Apologies, I just couldn’t get into the holiday spirit with this film. There are reasons but for now, I’ll start with this.

I like some Christmas films, as I’ve said in the past. The low budget ones where you don’t mind a flimsy script or some bad acting because they’re not supposed to be challenging; they’re supposed to make you feel good. Their messages don’t need to be coated in subtext – they’re pretty basic. Love your family, be happy in yourself and strive to be better to others. The messages Love Actually leaves you with are that it’s okay to screw over long standing friendships, as long as you get what you want; have an affair because mid-life crises are normal; if you’re lonely in Britain, go to America because the women there will shag anything; get over your grief by pining after your kid’s friend’s parent. If Love Actually wants to remind us that the modern age is cynical then it succeeds in spades.

The Kris Marshall segment, where he hops to America to meet girls, suggests that English girls are boring, unimaginative, and frigid whereas American girls are fun and easy and will sleep with anyone no matter how ugly they are. It’s akin to The Hunchback ditching Esmerelda and going to America to get laid. Sorry mate, not going to happen. But in Love Actually, anything can happen, even the impossible.

Then there’s the Kiera Knightley section, where she is ignored by Andrew Lincoln, who obviously fancies her despite her being his best friend’s brand new wife. He does bugger all about it before she gets married and shows up at her door after, with a few signs – supposed to be charming – signalling his undying love for her. This chapter is painted as romantic but is anything but. He has a good relationship with his best friend, he had about 8 billion chances to do something about his feelings before she was married – and did fuck all – and decided, after his friend and love interest tied the knot, to jeopardise his friendship by ending a marriage. Lovely story, so bloody heartwarming!

In Daniel’s story, he’s absolutely heartbroken by the sudden death of his wife and distracts himself by focusing his energies on his son who thinks, at the tender age of 13, that he’s in love. He buys Sam a drum set so he can get good enough to join the Christmas concert band the object of his desire sings in and after the concert, Daniel finds himself eyeing up the mother of one of the kids in attendance. I mean, come on! We’ve had to cope with this mopey git whining about how he can’t carry on and in a short time, he’s eyeing up someone else! That’s something you see a lot in American movies – (bending over open coffin) ‘I’m so sorry for your loss, but you see Linda over there? She’s single – go for it man!’ – but I hate to see it over here. For me, it just craps on what true love is supposed to be.

I hated this chapter anyway because of the kid, who in my version is impaled by his drumsticks and thrown into the Thames by his father. I can’t stand squeaky, obvious caricatures of what children are supposed to be, with everything accentuated to make them more endearing. Sam is an annoying little sweatsock and you don’t care if he gets the girl or not. Like everything in this turd of a film, the story and the feelings and that awful repetitive clarinet is drawn out which makes it harder to swallow.

Love Actually has that remarkable quality of taking good actors and making them bad (see number one for more on that). Maybe it’s the predictable script that does that or the poorly managed direction. Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, even Hugh Grant and Billy Bob Thornton, to a point; what on earth were they doing in this movie? I can just about forgive Nighy – his character appears on a children’s TV show where he advises his young audience that they can get drugs for free if they enter the music industry – but I can’t forgive anyone else. Not least the director, Richard Curtis, who couldn’t direct traffic in a creche. There’ll be a day when he announces his retirement from the industry and for me, that couldn’t come soon enough. I think I’ll throw a party on that day. Notting Hill (1999) was terrible. Four Weddings (1994) was awful but in comparison with Love Actually, they’re 5 star masterpieces.

Characters who are limp and uninspiring, stories that are tediously obvious, pace that makes you feel like you’re in a coma and messages that make you want to reach for the pills.

Did I say I hate this movie?

11 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Worst Films: #2: Love Actually (2003)

  1. Great intro again and love this line – ‘Broken hearts litter the dating scene like shattered glass in an alleyway.’ If you ever write a book (or another), you have to use that line! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • On any other day, that would have been number one but 1997 was a stinker of a year for the film industry. I’m going to have to watch my number one again and iron out exactly why I hated it so much it took the top spot. The first 5 minutes should confirm it! 🙂

        Love Actually had some pretty horrible messages in it but it doesn’t have the monopoly in the romantic field for that. My Best Friend’s Wedding was another – crap movie and appalling messages.

        Liked by 2 people

      • A commenter on a Telegram chat where I shared your review wrote this statement:

        “That would be my number one pick for worst movie of all time, propelled to that position not just because it is an emotionally manipulative piece of forced saccharine, but because it is relentlessly promoted as ‘a beloved Christmas classic!’ every year. 🤮”

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Welcome to maturity, 39. The last love story I watched was (go figure) Love Story (“love means never having to say you’re sorry). I avoid ‘romance’ like the plague.

    But relationships are another matter – see The Lion in Winter (one of my all time favorites!) or The Jolson Story (breaks my heart!). THOSE are movies worth watching. Love is real but so is life and life has a way of twisting love and forcing us to recognize the limits within ourselves and others.

    Know what? With Port’s permission, I may just do reviews of the movies I mentioned above. Excellent reason (although one is not needed) to watch them again.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That commenter on Telegram would be right if not for one thing – my number one pick has NO redeeming features, at all. It had to be there.

    Liked by 1 person

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