I don’t watch many Christmas movies this time of year but Love Actually happens to be one of my favorite guilty pleasures. It is always the first Christmas movie I watch and it sets the mood for the rest of the holiday season.
Love Actually follows ten intertwining stories and many characters during the weeks leading up to Christmas. The cast is stacked with the likes of Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth and Laura Linney. Compared to the cats of other rom-coms centered around a holiday (ugh, Valentine’s Day), this ensemble is overwhelmingly talented.
But a talented cast doesn’t make Love Actually is the greatest romantic comedy/holiday movie of the aughts. In fact, it is far from that.
Love Actually is overloaded with characters and story lines. Some I really don’t care for, like Keira Knightley as the newlywed or Chiwetel Ejiofor as her husband. (Would you even know it? Ejiofor barely has a line.) And I cannot stand Liam Neeson’s widowed father act.
Writer-director Richard Curtis basically went nuts when he made this film. Can you imagine how sloppy and tedious the director’s cut with 40 additional minutes would be? (Hint: Very painful.) And yet, I still adore Love Actually. I’d rather watch it, flaws and all, than miss out on the wonder that is Billy Mack, Rowan Atkinson’s gift wrapping, or Hugh Grant’s dancing.
And because Valentine’s Day really is so goddamn terrible.
In 1987 a trio of relatively unknown British actors – James Wilby, Hugh Grant, and Rupert Graves – starred in James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forester’s novel Maurice. Written in 1914, Maurice was not published until 1971 after Forester’s death and it is considered to be a minor work. Ivory’s film would lead you to believe otherwise.
The first months of the year are never known for delivering quality movies. Usually this isn’t noticeable because the award season has every one’s attention. Yet once the Oscars telecast ends, the lack of any decent movies becomes increasingly apparent. Music and Lyrics is one of the rare movies released during the January freeze that isn’t complete crap.
Music and Lyrics, released on Valentine’s Day, pairs up Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, two of the best romantic-comedy actors of the past 10 years.
Grant plays Alex Fletcher, a member of the former 80s pop band, POP!, who is receiving endless offers to appear on VH1 type shows (Battle of the Former 80s Stars, anyone?). He is then given an opportunity to write a song for the over-sexed newest pop sensation Cora Corman (Haley Bennett). The problem is, he’s not that good at writing songs.
Enter Barrymore’s character, Sophie Fisher, the woman hired to water his plants. She has a certain gift for writing catchy lyrics and soon a songwriting partnership is born. Of course, their budding romance will face pretty obvious challenges, but all in all, this is a cute and funny movie. Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston provide extra laughs in their supporting roles as Alex’s manager and Sophie’s sister respectively.
If you need to relax for a while, go see Music and Lyrics. It may not be the greatest romantic comedy ever made, but it is certainly not a movie you would consider a waste of money and time if you did venture out to see it.