My wife and I have this annual holiday tradition. Every year, she watches Love, Actually on TV, and each time, about halfway through the movie, I come downstairs and start making snarky comments and bad jokes, to the point where nobody’s having any fun at all by the end of the film. Jeez, when I say it like that, I sound like a huge dick. And, I don’t know, I’m not that big of a dick.
But Love, Actually, come on, in which darkest timeline have I wound up where this movie has taken on such celebrated significance? I saw it in the theaters with my wife while we were still dating, and at the time, yeah, I did nice things like that, went to the movies to see romantic comedies. We saw Two Weeks Notice, a bunch of other mostly Hugh Grant movies. As we exited the nine o’clock showing of Love, Actually that night, all I thought was, well, I guess that’s as bad as it’s going to get.
But no, she started watching it the next year, and the year after that. Each Christmas, the TV stations started playing it more and more. Every time I’d hear a significant buzz, groups of people waiting for the subway, talking about how much they love Love, Actually, stuff like, “Oh my God, I just love that movie. It’s seriously probably my favorite movie of all time. Love, love, love, Love, Actually.”
Last night was the 2013 viewing, and I caught more of the movie than I usually do, to the point where some of the stories didn’t ring any bells in my memory. Obviously I’ll never be able to forget the scene where Hugh Grant, acting as Prime Minister of the UK, gives President Billy-Bob Thornton some ridiculous speech about Britain being a small but proud nation, but other subplots, like the one about the office romance hindered due to that lady’s disabled brother, it was as if they’d been blocked from my memory entirely.
Which was probably for the best. If only I had stayed away this year. But I can’t help myself. I hear that ongoing Mariah Carey chorus and I just have to march in and start poking fun. And asking lots of questions. Like, is Liam Neeson that kid’s dad? I mean, I know the mom died, right, but do they address whether or not he’s the kid’s biological father?
To me, it seems as if he has to be the step-dad, like maybe he married this single-mother, and after a while she died, and he’s left in charge with this little kid who he really doesn’t have that strong of a connection with. Because their relationship is so over the top. “You’re in love? Well go get her! Run after her! Right past Mr. Bean, through airport security, go get ‘em!” If that were a real dad, he’d be like, “Hey, do me a favor, all right? Just stop talking for a second. Please. Just one second. I’m incredibly depressed around the holidays, ever since your mother died, it’s just me and you. Stop talking about your little kid girlfriend for a minute, please.”
And you talk about love, right? Half of the stories have nothing to do with love. What about the one where the guy falls in love with his best friend’s wife? First of all, I’m watching this movie and I’m like, who the hell is this guy? Why does he look so familiar? Then it hits me, he’s the actor who plays Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead. And again, I wish I had never watched it this year, because now when I watch my favorite TV show, I’m not going to be able to shake the image of this guy wearing an oversized sweater holding up signs telling his friend’s wife not to make a sound so he can steal a kiss while he’s not paying attention. I’m going to be too focused on scrutinizing his fake American accent. Seriously, how do people do that? If I tried to talk in a British accent, best case scenario, everybody in earshot would mercilessly make fun of me, worst case scenario, I’d get punched, hard.
Or what about the story where the guy is cheating on his wife? I’m not trying to make a moral argument or anything, you know, because a story about a guy cheating on his wife, in a romance movie, you don’t really need some guy like me pointing out how out of place it is. But from a logistical standpoint, it really bothers me. Like, he buys a necklace for his mistress, OK. Why don’t you go shopping for jewelry like on the way home from work or something? Why insist on taking your whole family to the mall, and then making the worst attempt ever to sneak out of their sight for a second so you can buy a necklace? Isn’t that a little reckless? It’s stupid, is what it is. And then, you’re not into your wife, fine, but maybe buy her something a little nicer than a CD to at least pretend that you give a fuck about her not finding out. Doesn’t she even say something earlier, like, “Is it just sex? Or is it sex and love?”
What’s the message here, that true love is all about perspective? That regardless of how bad a situation appears from the outside, somebody might be caught up in true love? That actually sounds kind of legit. Holy shit, did I just figure it out?
I could go on all day, but I’m clearly in the minority here. Love, Actually actually looks like it’s here to stay, and for the long haul too. I can just picture myself as an old man, this movie’s going to come on and I’m going to force myself to sit there and provide asinine commentary, pitching the same lame Love, Actually jokes. Remember when I said before that I wasn’t that big of a dick? I guess I can be kind of dickish, but only when Love, Actually is on. I don’t know, it just brings out the worst in me. It’s a good thing that all of the follow-up imitation ensemble movies always bomb at the box office, like He’s Just Not That Into You, and I think there’s a Valentine’s Day one also, the sister from Seventh Heaven is in it. OK, I’m done. I’m going to be sick. Wait, no, OK, I held it in. Wait, it’s coming back. Yeah, I’m definitely going to be sick. Yep, I did it, I threw up. Gross.