Dec 07

“Love Actually”: Holiday Favorite Back in Theaters

Love Actually is irresistible. You’d have to be Ebenezer Scrooge not to walk out smiling. Claudia Puig, IFC Center

And now, 20 years later, you have the opportunity to leave your couch-based streaming and return to a theater to see the better-sounding, better-looking re-issue—and walk out smiling. It includes a 10-minute pre-show consisting of interviews and various tidbits about the film’s creation.

Surprisingly, when Love Actually initially entered theaters in 2003 it received a lot of negative reviews. That didn’t stop it, though, from becoming an enduring favorite.

If it’s not something you’ve seen already, perhaps you’ve seen the often parodied “cue card” scene. One example (from SNL) followed Hillary Clinton‘s presidential election loss to you know who. It’s called “Hillary Actually” and stars Kate McKinnon—and still today rings bitterly sweet, funny, and relevant:

The actual movie scene spoofed above involves Mark (Andrew Lincoln) coming to the home of the wife (Keira Knightley) of his best friend and has been called “the stalker scene” by some viewers. Writer/director Richard Curtis now sees how problematic it is (The Independent).

“He actually turns up, to his best friend’s house, to say to his best friend’s wife, on the off chance that she answers the door, ‘I love you,'” Curtis said. “think it’s a bit weird. I mean, I remember being taken by surprise about seven years ago, I was going to be interviewed by somebody and they said, ‘Of course, we’re mainly interested in the stalker scene,’ and I said, ‘What scene is that?’ And then I was, like, educated in it.'”

More Info for Those Who Haven’t Seen Love Actually

Set mostly in London in the five weeks leading up to Christmas, Love Actually features a bunch of interconnected stories with a theme of—you guessed it—love, actually. And there’s an old song by The Troggs that figures prominently, “Love Is All Around,” that one main character, a recording artist, adapts for the holiday.

Many big names, including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton, and Alan Rickman, star in Love Actually. In addition to the misgivings about the cue-card scene, Curtis has also recently stated: “The lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid” (USA Today, 2022).

Additional info regarding the film’s dynamics and flaws from a recent review by Francesca Carington, The Guardian: “Many of the plots reward underdogs, which is cheering; the majority of them foreground a male perspective, which is not…(M)any of the things people object to now were raised by critics in 2003. Too hetero, too many fat jokes, too many relationships between a man and his female subordinate, too American, too cloying, too many plotlines. It’s unlikely the opening reference to 9/11 in support of Curtis’s manifesto that ‘love, actually, is all around’ went down much better 20 years ago than it does now, either.”

Love is actually all around, however, and this is an appealing feature. “The multistranded-ness of the film contributes, in part, to its longevity. While the saddest subplots – those with Thompson and Linney, crestfallen, open-hearted and magnificent – are indisputably the best, the portrayal of the many configurations of love rewards repeat viewing.”

Roger EbertChicago Sun-Times: “The movie’s only flaw is also a virtue: It’s jammed with characters, stories, warmth and laughs, until at times Curtis seems to be working from a checklist of obligatory movie love situations and doesn’t want to leave anything out.”

Oct 21

“You Should Have Known” Behind “The Undoing”

Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, David E. Kelley‘s six-part mini-series The Undoing premieres Sunday on HBO Max. Stars include Nicole Kidman—as a therapist—and Hugh Grant as her husband.

As some people like to read it before seeing it, this post previews the book. But first, a little background about author Korelitz: her mom is a therapist, who apparently “always brought home cautionary tales to my sister and me about not believing what someone tells you. She went to great pains to get us to understand that just because someone says something doesn’t mean it’s true. We all want to believe that someone is telling the truth – especially if we’re attracted to them” (amny.com).

And thus, main character Grace Reinhart Sachs is a New York shrink whose new nonfiction self-help book is You Already Know: Why Women Fail to Hear What the Men in Their Lives are Telling Them.

Richard Fitzpatrick, Irish Examiner, about this book-within-a-book: “Grace’s thesis is that women delude themselves when picking men. They’re blinded by the need for narrative — to save the man, or that they’re ‘already the heroine and here comes my hero’. They fail to read their self-deception, unwilling to notice the signs that tell them an embezzler, a liar, or a womaniser stands before them.”

Grace herself is in a long-term marriage to Jonathan, a pediatric oncologist; they have a 12-year-old son. From the publisher, additional info:

…(W)eeks before the book is published a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only an ongoing chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

In the first part of the novel readers see how private-school moms live. Then a woman, not someone from her social realm, is found murdered. Publishers Weekly breaks it down further: “Grace, already tense and sad from these events, becomes more and more anxious as Jonathan, at a medical conference in the Midwest, proves unreachable over several days. The author deftly places the reader in Grace’s shoes by exploring her isolation, unease, and contempt for the rumor mill.”

Selected Reviews of You Should Have Known

Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post: “It artfully combines wit and suspense into an irresistible domestic nightmare.”

John Harding, Daily Mail, asks a pertinent question or two: “Would such a high profile therapist really not be having – and indeed never have had – therapy herself, or regular supervision of her work by another therapist? And surely her professional expertise and intuition would have led to clearer understanding of her own marriage?”

Susan Dominus, New York Times:

Korelitz manages to pull off the contrivance that Grace, having written an entire book about blind spots, could be so spectacularly sabotaged by her own: The advice book is understood as the clanging of an alarm, the product of Grace’s own subconscious raging to be heard. In contrast, the novel’s resolution feels surprisingly neat and tidy for a story about the messiness of the mind.