The CK’s Not-So-Secret-Santa Review Swap

There’s a blogathon that was started over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer in July called the Not-So-Secret-Santa Review Swap, I didn’t get around to joining it back then, but when it came up again here for Christmastime, it sounded like an interesting change of pace. Considering that my site isn’t exactly the best place to showcase the movie I received as my “gift”, Love Actually, I considered hosting it there, but instead what I will do is also point out some of the review gifts related to my site like Dredd, including the one I handed out, Bounty Killer. I hadn’t heard very much about my movie, Love Actually, before this year where it seems to have exploded into my own blog feed with equal parts of love and hate over the movie. It’s a very unusual type of movie, it interweaves many different stories about love, set at Christmastime, and it is not a family film by any stretch of the imagination with plenty of swearing and some nudity. There’s a couple different ways to look at what the film is trying to do which is probably colored by what you ultimately think of the film as a whole. It is a look at many different types of love and relationships, but it also includes several unhealthy relationships. The stories are all generally separate from each other, but they are also connected in several different ways. It’s a very atypical holiday movie, and yet it ends with everything coming together the same way every other holiday movie does. And which side of the fence am I on? Personally, I didn’t care for it very much.

Not so secret santa

To start off with, there is a wide reach of different types of relationships, and yet the one type of relationship that is completely overlooked is any type of homosexual relationship. The closest thing we get to that is the bromance between Bill Nighy’s washed up singer and his manager. There’s also plenty of unhealthy and underdeveloped relationships. There’s the adulterous relationship between Alan Rickman and his sexy secretary, where she clearly has the hots for him, and he buys her an expensive necklace which his wife finds out about. There isn’t any confirmation that he closed the deal with her, but the intent was there. There’s also the other adulterous relationship between Andrew Lincoln’s and Keira Knightly’s characters, where she just got married near the beginning of the movie. It also annoyed me that in this very whitewashed world, there are only two black characters in relationships, and one of them is undercut by his best friend, even though once again the adulterous relationship doesn’t fully win out, but the problem is that the movie tries to make you root for it. It paints the best friend as the sympathetic character, and the husband as basically a non-entity. In fact, one of the most common scenes that I’ve seen regarding this movie is the cue cards held up by him, and the reason why he is using cue cards is so that he can talk to Knightly without her husband knowing he is there.

Love Actually

Next up is Terrence who’s looking for a cheap date while he is catering a wedding, and decides his best bet is to take a trip to the US where it turns into this ridiculously insane sequence where several hot women completely fawn all over him in what I thought would end up being a dream sequence, but is played as completely real. Practically all the rest of the relationships are workplace romances, one is between a secretary played by Laura Linney and Karl, who really has no personality whatsoever. Linney has a mentally disturbed brother who calls her often, and also has this crush on Karl that she’s had for over two years. She finally has the chance to get together with him, but her phone ends up being more important than him, and she completely blows him off in favor of her brother. Romantic Comedy mainstay Hugh Grant shows up as the Prime Minister who ends up falling for his intern, but at least he’s not married at the time. Ok, it’s not technically his intern but that’s very much the impression as she is much younger than him and even shares a kiss with the visiting, and married, President of the United States. Colin Firth’s romance happens with his newly hired housekeeper at his vacation home who doesn’t speak any English while he doesn’t speak any Italian, or Portuguese, whichever it is. They spend a lot of time together and obviously fall in love because she’s attractive. I find it very unlikely that the same thing would have happened if she was an unattractive woman, although Arnold Schwarzenegger might beg to differ.

This movie seems to try to both sidestep all the romantic comedy cliches, but also embraces them wholeheartedly, especially the ending where many of these relationships get built up into these fantastically elaborate stunts that pay off in the end. There’s the Prime Minister knocking on every door on the longest street in London to find his Natalie, the little boy Sam running dangerously past airport security to catch his secret love before she leaves the country, and Colin Firth leaving his family to go after his housekeeper who he learned Italian for and for some reason practically the whole town follows him to the restaurant where she waitresses, and learned English for him. There really wasn’t much for me to like about this movie aside from the one couple that didn’t get much screen time, but I thought had the funniest moments, which were Martin Freeman and Joanna Page who play stand ins on a softcore porn movie where they get into increasingly sexual, and naked, positions while carrying on with a normal conversation while the film crew checks the lighting, and blocking, and whatnot. Honestly, the only relationship I much cared for in the whole movie was the one with the kid and Liam Neeson, everything else just didn’t work for me. Guess I’m still a Grinch at heart. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.


About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 500 superhero and comic book movies in the past seven years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on December 30, 2013, in Blogs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I agree that Neeson and the kid’s story is the best, but I certainly like the film as a whole more than you. This is my favorite Christmas flick.

    Anyway, good review!

    • Out of curiosity, what do you like about it more: the relationships, or the humor?

      Oh, and I forgot to mention that Rowan Atkinson was a high point in the movie with his two brief moments.

      • I hate Mr. Bean. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. But I agree. Rowan Atkinson is positively sublime in this movie. 🙂

        And I like the relationships more than the humor. Love Actually is funny, of course, but I think it nicely encapsulates love of multiple varieties, with surprisingly well developed characters. It has friendship love (Billy Nighy’s story); family (Neeson and Linney’s); inappropriate (Grant”s and Rickman’s); lustful (Kris Marshall’s); unrequited (Andrew Lincoln; puppy (the kid); love at first sight (Firth’s); stale marraige (Thompson and Rickman); and probably more I’m forgetting.

        I cared about all of them, in their own way (though I think Colin’s farcical more than emotional and the secretary’s poorly developed).

      • I’m not a fan of Mr. Bean either, but I generally like Rowan Atkinson when he has small roles like this one.

  2. Personally, I feel like this flick is a little overrated, however, I will admit it has its moments. Mainly whenever Bill Nighy was around. That’s when the movie really had me laughing my shorts off. Good review.

  3. You make some really valid points in your review of this movie. Yeah that moment with the cue cards is a dick move and the moment where that one guy gets lucky in the US is extremely far fetched. This is still a guilty pleasure for me. I dont mind the antics by these characters so much because I find it all to be set within this fantasy world. I often wonder if people know that this movie is rated R. In most stores where I see the movie displayed. It’s actual cover has a slipsleave that never shows it. It’s labled as a cute Christmas movie. I wonder if anyone actually notices it before they buy it.

    • I didn’t realize it was rated R at all either until that opening scene where Bill Nighy starts swearing. I still think it’s weird that the cue card moment seems to be the big takeaway from this movie, because that’s the image I most associate with this movie at least from before I ever saw it.

  4. Thanks for reviewing the movie I suggested. I apologize for making you watch something you didn’t like. I have a soft spot for rom-coms, and I try to watch this one every Christmas. Happy New Year!

    • I still enjoyed watching it, made me smile many times, it just had a lot of problems that didn’t make it a very good movie.

      • For sure! Even for hopeless romantic types these situations are unrealistic. This is ultimate definition of a cheesy love story, which sadly led to American poorly made ensemble cast movies like Valentines Day and New Years Eve.

  5. It’s disappointing to hear you didn’t like it all that much as it’s a film I adore and watch ever Holiday season. I can’t not be happy when watching it. Thanks for participating in our Secret Santa Review Swap!

  6. We can agree that you’re still a Grinch at heart, Bubba. I understand your criticisms but this flick is a classic in my book. Shame you didn’t love as much as me. Thanks for participating though!

    • I imagine there’s plenty of others out there who dislike this movie, they just didn’t bother to read a review of it. I enjoyed participating and will keep an eye out to join again next time around as well.

  1. Pingback: The CK's Not So Secret Santa Review Swap: List of Reviews | Listing the Reasons We Love the Movies

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