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Love Actually (2003)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/3/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/3/2009

Movies can be like recipes. Various ingredients are added until the final result is ready. But, sometimes, the ingredients themselves don't sound very appetizing. For example, if you told me that you were making something with cranberries and chicken livers, I would pass on that dish, no matter how scrumptious the final product may be. I had a similar reaction to Love Actually when I first approached it. A lot of characters, a ton of story, romance, tragedy, and betrayal -- Nope, that doesnít sound like my kind of movie...at all. However, the like experts chefs, those involved in the making of the film took these questionable ingredients and made a film that became a gift to the palate.

Love Actually follows the lives of several different people in London, all of whom are tenuously connected, during the holiday season. Jamie (Colin Firth) is a writer who has just learned that his girlfriend is cheating on him. So, he makes his annual pilgrimage to his villa in France to write, and there he meets Aurelia (Lucia Moniz), his housekeeper who only speaks Portugese. Jamie is friends with Sarah (Laura Linney) who has a crush on her office-mate, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), but is afraid to tell him. She is egged on by her boss, Harry (Alan Rickman), who is dealing with his own flirtation from his secretary, Mia (Heike Makatsch). Harry is married to Karen (Emma Thompson). Karenís brother, David (Hugh Grant), is the newly elected Prime Minister. As if that werenít stressful enough, he immediately finds himself attracted to Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), who is part of his staff. Karen is friends with Daniel (Liam Neeson), whose wife has just died. Daniel is struggling to communicate with his stepson, Sam (Thomas Sangster). Jamie and Sarah attend the wedding of Juliet (Keria Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), which was overseen by Peterís friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln). Serving as a waiter at the reception is Colin (Kris Marshall), who tells his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) that he wants to go to America to meet women. Tony is working on a movie where John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are serving as nude stand-ins. While all of this is going on, aging rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is trying to reach #1 with his new song, a Christmas-themed cover of ďLove is All Around UsĒ. We watch as all of these characters learn the value of love in their lives.

Simply writing that synopsis was exhausting and it suggests that Love Actually may have bitten off more than it can chew. Many films can get one story right, how could this film follow so many different storylines? Writer/Director Richard Curtis has clearly mapped out the trajectory of each character and has specifically style their stories to fit the needs of the film. If you think about it, nearly every plotline here could have filled an entire movie. Curtis takes the step of taking these stories and only giving us the necessities.

Would we have liked more background on the characters? Of course. How did David become Prime Minister? Was there a history of infidelity with Harry? What happened to Samís father? However, thanks to the filmís structure and pacing, these unanswered questions arenít seen as plot-holes. The entire story takes place ďin the nowĒ and no matter what these characters have done in the past, we are following their lives as they lead them. Besides, the movieís focus isnít necessarily on plot. The primary goal here is to explore how romantic love comes and goes from everyoneís lives. From newlyweds to a couple who donít know each other anymore to strangers meeting for the first time, Love Actually demonstrates how ďlove is all around usĒ and how it can come from the most unexpected of places.

The most impressive feat of Love Actually is how Curtis is able to juggle all of this and keep the film fairly well-balanced. The necessary amount of time is devoted to each story and we are allowed to get to know the characters. The movie is a romantic-drama, and it delivers several poignant moments. But, itís also very funny as well, and the belly-laughs seem to come out of nowhere.

Of course, the catch with Love Actually is that the entire film probably wonít please everyone and youíll come away with the storyline which was your favorite and the one for which you didnít care. For me, the Hugh Grant story is my favorite. This is a somewhat more serious role than weíve seen Grant undertake in a while, but during key scenes, he delivers the funniest lines in the film. A strong runner up is the plot with Colin Firth. The idea that love can overcome a language barrier may not be a new one, but Love Actually handles it in a way which is both moving and funny. Iíve never cared for the story with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman. Despite the fact that itís arguably the most realistic part of the film, it never rang true with me. I could have also done without Colinís journey to America, but that may just be because Denise Richards was involved.

Love Actually was a modest box-office success when it opened in the U.S. in 2003, but Iíve always had the feeling that audiences have never embraced the film -- for whatever reason. Be it the length or the wealth or storylines, people may be put off by the film. To them I say that I canít recommend this film enough. Itís not only a great blend of dramatic and comedic, but it shows that in the right hands, too much material can still work. Watching Love Actually has become a holiday tradition in my household and it should be in yours as well.

Love Actually focuses way too much on womenís weight on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. There is, however, very slight grain visible on the image throughout the film. The colors look very good, but overall, the transfer is a bit bright. The level of detail is very good -- too good in fact when you notice that you can see every blemish on every actors face. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The main thing that youíll note about this track is that the music sounds great. The stereo effects during the office scenes are good, and the party and airport scenes provide good surround sound effects. This is above average for the audio on a dramedy.

The Love Actually Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Richard Curtis, and actors Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, & Thomas Sangster. The Disc contains a series of DELETED SCENES which run about 37 minutes and contain introductions by Curtis. Instead of being individual scenes, some of these are "chunks" (as Curtis calls them). We get a long series of scenes with Daniel and Sam. From there, Curtis explains how moments were trimmed from each story and we see a series of these scenes. There are some OK entries here, but it's quite easy to see why some (such as the gymnastics!) were cut. In "The Music of Love Actually", Curtis explains why five particular music cues or songs were used for key scenes. We then see the scenes, which is odd, as we've just watched the movie. "The Storytellers" (10 minutes) is a making-of featurette which focuses on Curtis, and examines each of the film's storylines. The extras are rounded out by MUSIC VIDEOS for the songs "The Trouble with Love Is" by Kelly Clarkson, and "Christmas is All Around" by Billy Mack.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long