Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Battle Over “Love Actually”

posted by Nell Minow

“Love Actually” has become a Christmas tradition.  The assorted stories of romance, from comic to tender to bittersweet, take place at Christmastime, with a rousing performance of “All I Want for Christmas is You” from Olivia Olson.

YouTube Preview Image

My friend Christopher Orr does not like “Love Actually.”  He explains why, in great detail, in The Atlantic.

I think it offers up at least three disturbing lessons about love. First, that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind. Second, that the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say “I love you”—preferably with some grand gesture—and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss. And third, that any actual obstacle to romantic fulfillment, however surmountable, is not worth the effort it would require to overcome.love actually

Of course, there are many people who feel differently and it seemed that most of them responded in writing.  In Mother Jones, Ben Dreyfuss wrote a piece called “Why ‘Love Actually’ Matters,” noting that he had seen the film at least 40 times.  “In ‘Love Actually,’ as in life, people fall in love for crazy reasons…Is the movie a meaningful blueprint on how to meet your life’s love and make it last with them forever? Of course not. But is it romantic? Yes! Romance is the big gesture. Romance is the love that erupts without a spoken word.”

In ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg wrote:

I like “Love Actually” not because I think it’s a compelling celebration of love, or because it’s a good holiday movie, but because of how sad the film often is….[It] can be painfully clear-eyed about how difficult it is not to have access to that bounty of affection, and to what are supposed to be happy endings.

Emma Green responded to Orr in The Atlantic as well, calling on C.S. Lewis to back her up:

“Love Actually” shows awkward, charming, complicated entanglements that can be very instructive in thinking about love.  To help explain why, I hereby declare my second in this duel: C.S. Lewis. Although a mid-century Christian apologist might seem like an bizarre choice for back-up in a battle about a romantic comedy, his book The Four Loves provides a helpful framework for examining the big question “Love Actually” asks: What is love, actually?

Well, for starters, it’s a lot more than romance. Some of the movie’s most “aww!”-inducing moments do involve big, dramatic declarations of the heart (more on that later), but the most interesting of the movie’s nine or 10 subplots are those that don’t quite fit the expected rom-com mold. That’s because they’re not romantic at all: They’re versions of the first two kinds of love Lewis writes about, affection and friendship.

Orr doesn’t give up.  He responded to everyone with a closely-reasoned piece of analysis that could almost serve as a Supreme Court brief or doctoral dissertation.

I think there are two flaws common to many of the defenses of “Love Actually” I’ve seen in comments, on Twitter, and elsewhere on the web. The first is attempting to defend each subplot on an individual basis. I agree that (with one notable exception) any given storyline is perfectly defensible on its own merits. The problem, rather, is the patterns that emerge when you consider the film as a whole. One subplot about an older man wooing a much-younger subordinate? Fine. But three? And on it goes: not one, but two gags (three, if you count the Colin subplot) about how the only possible way a man could overcome heartbreak is with the assistance of one or more supermodels; two storylines in which women (never men) see their romantic lives shattered by obstacles that ought to be surmountable; and, most important, upwards of half a dozen subplots in which characters go directly from initial physical infatuation to (presumed) happily-ever-afters, without remotely bothering to get to know one another in between. These repeated themes are not coincidental.

The second mistake is trying to defend the Keira Knightley storyline, which is flat-out indefensible. Cut it loose, “Love Actually” fans! It’s an anchor that can only bring you down with it.

I “actually” found this debate more entertaining than the movie, which I find problematic but still fun to watch.



Previous Posts

Summer Summer-y: The Summer Movies of 2014
A few concluding thoughts on the summer movies of 2014: A good summer for food movies: "The Chef," "The 100-Foot Journey," and "The Trip to Italy" had some big-time actors but the real stars were the luscious meals. A bad summer for comedies: "22 Jump Street" was uneven, but at least it had so

posted 3:46:47pm Aug. 31, 2014 | read full post »

The Last Leonard Maltin Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin was only 17 years old when he was offered the chance to create his guide to movies on television. For many years, I kept the latest copy on my desk and anyone who came into my office could pick a page number at random. If I had not seen any of the movies on that page, I had to buy t

posted 8:00:33am Aug. 31, 2014 | read full post »

"Let's Be Cops" Could Have Been Not Terrible
"Let's Be Cops" is a dumb movie that wants to be like "Lethal Weapon" or "The Other Guys," a comedy action film about buddies with badges. It's moderate box office returns are possibly in part because the unrest in Ferguson and news stories about police brutality made the timing bad for a cop comed

posted 11:35:46am Aug. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang -- Beyonce, Cher, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, and Jesse J
Two hit tunes from the hottest pop divas are both called "Bang Bang."  One is Beyoncé's sultry, glamorous cover of the Cher oldie in this teaser for her HBO special. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WebQaN7Lbs[/youtube] Ariana Grande, Jesse J, and Nicki Minaj have an unrelated song

posted 9:00:40am Aug. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Contest: Hey Arnold! The Complete Series
The football-headed Arnold and all his pals are here in this box set with all 99 adventures from the beloved Nickelodeon series. It's available exclusively at Walmart, but I have a copy to give away! Send

posted 12:20:14pm Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.