Hugh Grant could very well be the typecast actor of a generation, invading American romantic comedies with his devilishly handsome, but often bumbling British mannerisms in search of love. Seen in such films as “About a Boy,” where he played an aging bachelor afraid of commitment, in “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” where he played an aging bachelor looking for love and in “Notting Hill,” where he played an aging bachelor desperate for love, he is a man of few personas. Yet, there’s something about Grant that brings a smile to the faces of women everywhere , even with his repetitive resume.
In November’s surprise romantic hit, Grant plays the newly elected British prime minister, who inconveniently falls madly in love with his catering manager, Natalie, played by British singer Martine McCutcheon. Though the role is not a stretch from earlier ones, Grant manages to play it perfectly. His character manages to straddle being classy, lonely and an awkwardly hopeless romantic, going above and beyond to win the heart of the woman he loves.
Though Grant is publicized in accordance to this film, he is only a small part of the ensemble cast that follows the ups and downs of 14 different people as well as the interactions they have with one another. Most amusingly is the story of Billy Mack (Bill Nighly), a middle-aged pop singer who had a flourishing career some 20 years prior. Christmas seems the perfect time to reinvent himself and write some new Christmas-y lyrics to a prior hit, changing the word “love” to “Christmas,” and therefore creating one of the most god-awful Christmas songs ever. Dressed like an artsy ex-heroin addict, Mack sets out on a promotion tour where he opts to answer reporters’ questions quite matter-of-factly, agreeing that his new song is crap and that he just wants to make some money.
The most beautifully tender moment in a film filled with excessive amounts of relationship cliches is when newlywed Juliet, played by “Pirates of the Caribbean”‘s Keira Knightley, discovers that her husband’s best friend is desperately in love with her. Knowing that he can never have her, adorable Mark (Andrew Lincoln) professes his love and promises to leave her alone and to her husband, a sad and sweet realization.
Though “Love Actually” is filled with typical romantic moments, it tries to balance the generic and sappy with the poignant and unfortunately relatable. Harry (Alan Rickman) is a boss at a typical British office, where he is seduced by his overly slutty secretary, failing to realize the awful predicament he put his wife Karen (Emma Thompson) and his two children in. For the sake of the children, Karen slaps a happy face on for Christmas, sneaks off to her bedroom to cry alone and eventually pulls herself together in time for a Christmas recital.
The prevailing theme in this film is that love is, actually, all around, through family, friends and lovers, though it may not always be in the most conventional sense. This movie tries its best at creating a world showcasing both the ups and downs of love, making one long for the right people to end up together, but somehow knowing that it is too much to ask in some cases. “Love Actually” will make you laugh and smile, and as much as Artsweek hates to call any movie this, it just might be the feel-good movie of the season.