It’s the day before Christmas and all through the house are the sounds of Love Actually coming from the living room, because tradition in our house is for my mother to watch that movie over and over again while I hide in my room and listen to normal music. I have seen this damn movie so many times. At first I loved it. Then I found it slightly annoying. And now I hate it. But let’s be real: it’s not all bad. Here’s a quick little guide to the best and worst story lines in this madcap Christmas romantic comedy.
GREAT: Harry and Karen
This is definitely the best plot line of the film. Can’t we all agree? First of all, of course Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson would have the best/worst marriage in cinema. It only makes sense for that marriage to be depicted in the best/worst Christmas movie ever made. But not only is this story the strongest, writing wise, it’s consistently the one that tears everyone apart. The scene in which Karen discovers that her husband is probably cheating on her with his tarty (tarty! British!) secretary and she cries along to Joni Mitchell? Don’t act like you haven’t dramatically reacted to every minor life crisis the exact same way.
AWFUL: Jamie and Aurelia
Colin Firth is all Mister Darcy over the fact that his girlfriend sleeping with his brother, so he has to run away to sunny France for Christmas so he can spend the holiday alone and write a novel on his typewriter. Who uses a typewriter?! This ain’t Brooklyn, Jamie. Luckily, he has a hot Portuguese cleaning lady who he falls in love with, and it’s an interesting take on class status in Europe. Ha ha, just kidding, but isn’t it hilarious when Jamie can’t speak Portugese really well at the end? (Nope.)
GREAT: David and Natalie
Sure, it’s kind of weird that this plot line about the Prime Minister and a member of his staff devotes a few scenes to the Iraq war and disparages the United States presidency with a composite of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton (Southern, ass-grabbing) played by Billy Bob Thornton. And then, you know, the Prime Minister falls in love with someone on his staff. But he doesn’t grab her ass! Instead, he dances to the Pointer Sisters. (Ah, those Brits, always making me ask the question, “Is he gay or just English?”) But Hugh Grant is adorable as hell in this, and props to the since-unseen Martine McCutcheon for looking cute as a button and looking like a normal human woman with a real, bangin’ body.
AWFUL: Sarah and Karl
Why does Laura Linney live in London? What is going on with her mentally ill brother? Why does he call so much? Why does she have a thing for Karl? (OK, that answer is obvious.) Why does Karl string her along? Why does Karl drop her based entirely on the fact that she has a mentally ill brother who calls her too much? I dunno, Karl, maybe you not be a dick for a second and a half and realize that maybe you could take the lady out on a date instead of just trying to bang her after the company holiday party? Or maybe Sarah should wise up and realize that Karl—his name is Karl, for Christ’s sake—is kind of a jag off and maaaaybe she shouldn’t shit where she eats? She already has enough on her plate with her brother, you know?
GREAT: Daniel and Sam
How awkward is it to watch Love Actually now that Natasha Richardson has died? Obviously Liam Neeson’s character would deal with the death of his wife by breaking the necks of a lot of evil Europeans. Or wolves, or something. Luckily, this story line focuses on the love between Daniel and his stepson, Sam. Sam, who is the most adorable child in the history of film, steals everyone’s hearts with his sad face and his mussy hair and his obsession with the American girl who is really only in this movie to remind everyone how awesome “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is. But like Harry and Karen’s story, this plot line is one of the best because it walks the line between heartwarming and heartbreaking.
THE WORST: Mark, Juliet, and Peter
Hey, Mark? If you’re in love with your best friend’s new wife, maybe you should stop hanging around them and filming their wedding and showing up at the door to profess your love to her with some silly Bob Dylan-style speech-with-cue-cards thing. ‘Cause that is some bullllllllshit. You are a terrible person. And Juliet? Don’t think you’re off the hook for kissing him. I know you think he’s sweet and everything, but you have a husband inside the house—right there inside the house—so maybe you shouldn’t participate in his terrible, evil best friend’s efforts to break you two apart because he’s kind of a selfish, sad puppy of a man. And Peter? Pull your head out of your ass. Shit is going down all around you and you’re too busy organizing choirs to sing to your wife.
GREAT: John and Judy
Tits, basically. And Martin Freeman. So thumbs up!
THE WEIRDEST: Billy Mack and Joe
We can blame this movie for Bill Nighy’s weird career, right? But even I don’t even know what the hell is going on in this one. Sure, I’m beginning to get "Christmas Is All Around" stuck in my head for the rest of the week, and a British bromance is darling, I suppose. But nothing about the resolution of this story—basically, the image of two old Brits sitting around on Christmas eve, hugging and watching porn together—makes me want to do anything but vomit all of the cinematic eggnog I’ve willingly accepted for nearly two-and-a-half hours.
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