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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November, 2003, 09:55 GMT
Love Actually's sweet overdose
By Matthew Slater
BBC News Online

Hugh Grant
Hugh Grant plays a young and single prime minister

Love Actually, the new film from the man behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, has taken the most money in its opening weekend of any British romantic comedy.

Just as nine spoonfuls of sugar ruin a cup of tea, nine different stories spoil a good film.

In the case of Richard Curtis's directorial debut, Love Actually, his confection is so sweet it is almost impossible to finish.

Curtis, of course, is the writer behind the smash hits Four Weddings and Funeral, Bridget Jones's Diary and Notting Hill - not to mention Blackadder and numerous other TV credits.

Read your reviews

Curtis and his Working Title partners are clearly believers in the old adage that if ain't broke, don't fix it.

So once more we have a group of articulate, middle-class Londoners struggling with their love lives and loved ones.

Martine McCutcheon
Martine McCutcheon plays her role well
As a director of his own material, Curtis is crying out for the editing skills of a less indulgent hand.

He can knock out romantic comedies as easily as the rest of us breathe.

But Love Actually only serves to prove another old adage that you can have too much of a good thing.

What is good here - and there is much that is very good - is diminished by too many distracting plot lines and unnecessary characters.

One look at the movie poster will tell you that this is a film not lacking in star turns, but at about 10 minutes of screen time per actor, they are only turns, not performances.

Bill Nighy
Bill Nighy almost steals the show as a cynical rock star
Hugh Grant reprises his lovable posh bloke routine - this time as an impossibly youthful prime minister - while Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Colin Firth all try to bring a bit of depth to proceedings.

Martine McCutcheon plays her appallingly underwritten role very well, Rowan Atkinson supplies another vintage cameo and Bill Nighy almost steals the entire film as a cynical rock star with Curtis's best lines.

Love Actually is not a very good film - it's lots of bits of good films with some duff films thrown in too.

But its irresistibly optimistic message, strong cast and clever marketing will make it more of a cracker than a turkey this Christmas.

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This review is now closed. A selection of your views are below.

I loved this film, brilliant cast, great story and with a happy ending - what more could you ask for!! (except to see Hugh Grant doing that dance naked).
Ali, UK

There are good points and bad points about this film. In some instances, you are clutching your side with hearty laughter, in others, hiding your eyes with annoyance at the cheesy romanticism which Richard Curtis is famed for. There are also too many big names and cameos in this movie for you to really relax and enjoy what's happening.

Creditable performances from young Thomas Sangster who plays Sam (and is also a cousin of Hugh Grant), a lovesick ten-year-old, whilst the more recognisable Martine McCutcheon shines far more on the big screen than in anything she's done for TV. For laughs 8/10, plot 6/10, cheesy love 10/10 ! A real date movie and a gem for Christmas - go see it now !
Nev Cameron, Newcastle, UK

I saw this film last night, I laughed, I smiled, I laughed louder, I left the cinema smiling and so did everyone else. Hands down it's the best film I've seen all year (until Return of the King that is!)
Mathew Gard, UK

Absolutely fantastic. Whole film was brilliant. Hugh and Colin are just the best.
Lynette, Basingstoke, UK

Matthew Slater has totally missed the point. I saw the film in an American cinema (dangerous though that proved to be at one point in the film!) and thought it was a really clever piece of ensemble writing. Although not all plots came together at the end it was so well put together that it felt whole and complete.

The rare and believable transformations in the characters were a smoothly executed piece of writing and the humour was fast and fresh. It is so easy to go to the cinema and be bombarded with negativity at the moment - we all need a film like Love Actually occasionally to show us that there is some fun left in life - and even some love!!
Mike Gilfillan, UK/USA

It doesn't matter if the movie's too sentimental or what not. What made this movie great and a must-see is the feeling it passes on to the people who have seen it. I went with my girlfriends and had a blast, laughing one moment and close to tears the next.

This movie brought out the "love" in all of us, for after the film, there were so many couples, young and old, who were kissing away. Now, that's one powerful movie and really, that's the purpose of watching films. Movies are suppose to inspire, entertain and project a certain message and as for Love Actually, it has done all of the above. Bravo!
Charmaine, Victoria, Canada

As an American twenty-something who was born and raised in Milwaukee, it was hilarious to see the portrayal of the typical American bar. Milwaukee is the last place anyone would think of to find hot American women. And, because of the movie, I came to the realisation that most of my girlfriends and I find British accents quite sexy.
Emma, Chicago, USA

As a Brit living on the other side of "the pond", I loved it, actually. Just as life contracts into a series of moments, we delve into some of the salient seconds of the characters' lives. Any sweetness is tempered by some bitter vignettes; witness actress Laura Linney's love for her violent, mentally ill brother. Love, actually, and loss, and sacrifice, and unfulfilled longing, and the magic of finding "the one". I just wish that Curtis would write speeches for Tony Blair.
Lisa Davis, USA

My girlfriend dragged me to see this but once I was in the chair I thought let's give it a chance and approach it with an open mind. Within minutes all of my fears were realised. Curtis has a formula to his work and it is dire. Pick a song that will have the desired emotional effect on the audience and then drag out a scene around it. Songbird, then Nora Jones, then more tears.

At one point I expected the words "FEEL SAD" to appear on the screen. It was so unsubtle it was vulgar. The same applies to when he wants the audience to feel happy: play Jump and cue Hugh Grant dancing like a fool. How hilarious!!

The only positive aspects of this film is the acting by a select few. It is a credit to Rowan Atkinson, Bill Nighy and Liam Neeson that they can remain credible and enjoyable with such utter garbage...... And I thought Notting Hill was bad. Gees!!
James, UK

I really liked this film, I liked the comedy side of it and the love side of it too. It was hilarious and at the same time could make you cry (I didn't cry of course)...I would reccomend anyone to go see this film, and I also love how it links in with present day, with the president's visit. These small touches make the film great. GO see it NOW!
Poddy, UK

Bill Nighy is a god!! If he is not No1 for Christmas, well you can call me Scrooge as I will be cancelling Christmas! Worth the ticket price alone!
Mrs H, England

Thought this is one of the worst films I have ever seen. Curtis tries to do a Pulp Fiction - linking of several stories and fails miserably. The stories and characters are too numerable to have any depth. The script is abysmal and simply serves to stereotype some of the characters. Nathalie, the working class girl from Wandsworth uttering expletives because they couldn't think of anything better for her to say is one such example.

Mental illness is given a patronising nod and the funeral seen is an insult to anyone recently bereaved, all in all, it is terrible. I want my money back!
Anon, UK

This may not be the greatest film ever made but it does put a smile on your face and leaves you with a warm glow. Bill Nighy's old rocker was brilliant, Hugh was good as the top man, all and all this was a really enjoyable film.
Eric Johnson, England

I loved this film, the fact that some of the critics didn't just goes to show what cynics they are. The different strands of the story are brilliantly interwoven, and all the performances are excellent, particularly Bill Nighy and Emma Thomson. The soundtrack is also very enjoyable. This is a film that sends you out of the cinema happy and upbeat - and there aren't many of those these days.
Sophie Ahmed, UK

I LOVE THIS MOVIE! I don't care what anybody else who didn't care for it will say - though, I respect your opinions... BUT, this movie was fun, sweet, emotional, well acted... inspiring... just right and SURPRISINGLY WONDERFUL!

So there, go see it if you haven't and I dare you not to come out more open, lighter about life... (and if you don't, well, you need some lovin' bad!)
Jander Lacerda, NY, USA

With its superb cast and pedigree, I really wanted to like this film as much as those written by Curtis in the past. However, both my wife and I left the cinema feeling cheated as there were many interesting characters you never got to know whereas as other story strands were a complete waste of time. The involvement of four couples would have been quite sufficient instead of the chaotic mess to which the audience is subjected.

With an overabundance of past pop hits, this really felt like a "Best of" album with most of the cast giving reheated repeats of performances in better films.

If you think the underused Bill Nighy is good here, check out his first role as a faded rock star in the underrated and little seen STILL CRAZY, which properly uses a ensemble cast.

Still, I think we were in the minority as the audience clapped at the end of the packed performance we attended.
Chris, Tunbridge Wells, UK

Absolutely fantastic - if that's not the best film ever then I don't know what's wrong with people. I hope Bill Nighy gets to number one - it's such a good song...
Lucy, North Yorkshire, England

I was very disappointed in this film. Not enough time was allocated to the development of any one character or any one storyline and as such, I didn't feel there was any sentiment present. This and the fact that the file is evidently over-hyped, ensures that I won't be recommending anyone wastes the price of a cinema ticket. Not as good as that other over-hyped effort, Notting Hill, and shouldn't be dignified with a comparison to the fantastic Four Weddings...
Pamela, Scotland

Thought it was very funny, but maybe could of got rid of some of the couples (especially Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley's). But, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely see it again.
Kate, UK

Very disappointing!!! I think all but one of the funny scenes are in the TV advert for the film. It's not a patch on Notting Hill or Bridget Jones. Go see Kill Bill instead - it's much funnier!
Julie, Newcastle, UK

I enjoyed it a little but was expecting some substance or some sort of plot. It it wasn't for Bill Nighy I would say it was a waste of time. I bit over rated I would say. Loved About a Boy, excellent film I would see again and again. This one ONCE was definitely enough!!!
Maria Crossley, England

The title says it all - if you don't want to see sentimental stories then don't go and see it. The clear star is Martine McCutcheon, and it's very funny at parts. I quite enjoyed it, 'cos sometimes all you want to watch is nothing deep, unlike most films coming out with the lead up to the Oscars!
Anon, Wales

Best thing about it was for the first time in ages I actually liked the Prime Minister. Take note, Tony.
Rick, Scotland (living in Ireland)

What's wrong with a bit of good old-fashioned schlock every now and then?
Guy Chapman, UK

This film is sweet, funny and sometimes quite sad. You find yourself laughing one minute and then quite tearful the next. This film would not appeal to everybody and I do think to really to enjoy it you have to be in a good relationship yourself.
Marrina, England

I think that Love Actually is the best film I have seen in ages. I laughed all the way through and at the end of the day I'd rather laugh than see people beating each other up and killing people. How depressing is that? Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon work well together and the rest of the cast are a credit to the film too.
Gemma Marden, England

I didn't like it. And I normally love soppy and overly sentimental films. I agree with your reviewer completely - you don't get to know the characters and therefore don't care about their situations. And it just isn't very funny. There are a few good moments but I was bored mostly. Martine was fabulous though - they should have just made the Martine/Hugh movie and have been done with it. (With Emma Thompson's plot as a subplot). Humbug!
Matt, London

I absolutely adored this film, it is remarkably fun and entertaining, which lives up to all the hype. Everyone who leaves the cinema after seeing this film will have a large grin on their face it is such a feel good film. My only criticism is that the stars really don't have too much on-screen time, which perhaps is a good thing because you are left wanting more, and are certainly never bored at any point. I wish I could say that this was an acurate portrayal of life in London, or a true reflection of the experience of love, but I can't. This is quite clearly a work of non fiction, and those who criticise the film for this really are clutching at straws to find flaws with a truly wonderful cinema experience, a must see for all.
Gordon , UK

Surely this is just the right time for some feelgoodness? I really enjoyed the film! But maybe that's because I'm a newlywed with a penchant for all things love.
Andrea, UK

it's lighthearted, funny, very entertaining and did exactly what it set out to do - made me smile, laugh and even brought a tear to my eye
Shiona Walker, UK
I totally agree with your reviewer. This is a muddled film. Many of the stories fall at the first hurdle and the good ones(Laura Linney/brother, Emma Thompson/Alan Rickman) are left unresolved. There a few good laughs but ultimately the film over long, over simplistic and juggles too many rom coms in the air. Fine for a wet afternoon but this is no Notting Hill.
Glenn Meads, UK

Not as good as Notting Hill, too many story lines that in two cases leave you less than satisified at the end. Hugh Grant & Martine McCutcheon don't feature nearly enough in what could have been a much stronger element to the storyline, Bill Nighy does indee completely steal the movie. A fun, but not as memorable watch as those previously penned by Richard Curtis.
Steve, England

I saw this last night, and what a lovely film, who cares that it was made up of loads of different scenarios, it's lighthearted, funny, very entertaining and did exactly what it set out to do - made me smile, laugh and even brought a tear to my eye - am I a softy - yes! Hugh Grant does what he does best - is it better than Notting Hill - by far - Bill Nighy has to be No 1 for Christmas and I hope Mr Blair watches it and takes note! It's a feel good movie and we all need that sometimes. Richard Curtis - well done.
Shiona Walker, UK

Supremently over-sentimental and laboured - saved only by several very funny-witty moments. Good value, though, for forgettable light entertainment.
Dan, UK

I am astonished by the critics' reviews which have accused the film of sickening sentimentality. At least three of the storylines concentrate on the tragic side of love - balm to all us misanthropes out there, i.e. those of us who are not cocooned in a cuddly relationship (bah humbug). It was entertaining, well acted, moving and with proper dollops of predictable but appropriate songs in all the right places. I haven't felt two-and-a-bit hours fly by so effortlessly in the cinema since Pirates of the Caribbean.
Alan Simpson, Belfast, NI

A rom-com without the comedy! Two hours of sentimental drivel. One for the ladies , I think. Very, very boring!
Jim, UK
I saw this movie at an Advance Screening on 16/11/03 and both myself and my partner thought it is THE best movie of 2003. With so much doom and gloom in the news right now, it was a TOTAL breath of fresh air to find something with such a great feel-good factor. I liked Notting Hill - but thought that Love Actually was far, far better. I shall DEFINITELY be seeing it again
maxine, UK

a rom-com without the comedy! two hours of sentimental drivel. one for the ladies i think, very, very boring!
jim, uk

What a great film - Loads of really good performances typical of a Curtis production. Hugh Grant as the PM was a masterpiece, plus brilliant performance from Liam Neeson with his on-screen son. If you liked 4 Weddings & Notting Hill go and see this - it's even better... - a perfect Christmas film
Rich, UK

For the first 10-15 minutes I thought it was ridiculously over the top and a real disappointment. I then realised that was the whole point. Once I accepted that, I loved it. It is the most 'feel good' feel good movie ever. Emma Thompson was fantastic. Not one for the cynics but if you relax and accept a bit of fantasy for an hour and half it will brighten up your week.
Judy, UK

I thought this film was lovely. It was nicely pieced together using great actors. The part with the little boy was so sweet. No way was it too sentimental. It was just right.
Chanel, Wales

It was sincerely refreshing to have a happy feel-good movie at a time when the box office seemed to be flooded with violence
Carl Anglim, Brit in US
I agree that 10 stories are hard to keep sorting out, but I loved the film. The actors were superb. I especially liked Hugh Grant's prime minister character making his displeasure known over a one-sided relationship with the American president. Believe me, we appreciate our British friends, but we also need friends who stand up to us and tell us the truth, even if its only in a movie.
Byron, USA

I thought the film was fabtastic. It is true that some characters and plotlines can get lost, and that it lacks a solid substance, but anyone watching the film, or piece of cinematic art, will find themselves smiling non stop. It was sincerely refreshing to have a happy feel-good movie at a time when the box office seemed to be flooded with violence and when the world seems to be dealing with so much hate. I loved the experience and i recommend all to see it, its good for teh heart if nothing else.
Carl Anglim, Brit in USA

I loved this film. It was quite funny in parts and serious in other sections. However, I can understand why some people may not like it. It does have a lot of parts and lot of characters. It may be too sentimental for some but it does have a great cast and some marvelous dialogue.
Dave, New Jersey

Brilliant actually! I enjoyed every minute of this film. It was touching, soppy, happy escapism, and a welcome relief from our current unsettled reality. Go see it and forget about the angry world for two hours at least.
Christine, U.K

Brillant, one of the funniest films this year. Great casting, lots of laughs and although slightly chessy, a great meaning behind the film
Tom, UK
Thought it was an ok film however i did think there was a bit too much love, and also the ageing rocker guy really stole the film from Hugh Grant's usual performance
Jake, London,England

Simply the best film I have seen a long time! It was superb! Yes, some of the love stories were a little forgotten about at times, and you did have to concentrate a little to follow the links, but with such fantastic acting how could you fail to enjoy it! And contrary to the criticism levelled at it, the film is not all sweetness and light. It deals with adultery and loss amongst others. This film made me laugh, had me on the verge of tears, made me cringe but most of all made me smile, and if we can't smile at a Christmas film, what can we smile at. Stop being so cynical and enjoy it for what it is - a film about love!The best of Curtis' films to date!
Stephanie McNaul, Northern Ireland

I really enjoyed the movie, it was a great mixture of brit com. I thought that the cast was great and I enjoyed the coming together at the end. I think that the music that linked the stories together was also really well done. I hope that everyone enjoys this movie as much as actaully loves it!
Emily , Canada

As a Brit living in the U.S.A. I am first in line at my local movie theater ('cinema' to the folks back home!) whenever a British film is released here. I am afraid that where "Notting Hill" had a gooey feelgood effect, "The Full Monty" a full throttle (& full frontal!) feelgood effect, "Love Actually" was just cloyingly over-the-top- saccharin that had no effect at all - apart from feeling 'what an (almost) total waste of time.' I say 'almost' because the only worthwhile bits were observing Emma Thompson's undisputable acting ablity & Bill Nighy hamming it up like a good 'un. The rest of the movie was a bit of a dead loss, actually.
Riki Baron, U.S.A.

Brillant, one of the funniest films this year. The film assembles most of Britains best acting talent - many of which are making movie debuts. Bill Nighy is espicially hilarious as has-been popstar Billy Mack. Great casting, lots of laughs and although slightly chessy, a great meaning behind the film. Merry Christmas!
Tom, UK

I went to see Love Actually last night with my wife and while she really enjoyed it I felt quite empty as the credits rolled. What bothered me was a lack of depth to the characters. They were like bits of people, or characters from other films stuffed together into this one. It was almost like an episode of friends but without a whole series to get to know and like the people. Ultimately there were some good moments, Colin Firth was excellent but was also largely unconnected with the rest of the film. Sadly this one will have to go down as a bit of a damp squib.
Shane Sturrock, UK

As well as McCutcheon Kris Marshall also suffers from a spectacularly underwritten role. It's bright, cheery and predictably warm and fuzzy, but not half as sharp or believable as 'Four Weddings...' There's worse ways to spend a couple of hours during the cold of winter, but surely Curtis could have done a lot better this time round with the wealth of talent at his disposal?
Ingmar Collinson, UK

The perfect film. Crushingly romantic, roaringly funny, warm, moving and beautiful.
Jonathan Harris
Thought it was a great movie. A couple of unnecessary story lines but the main ones were quite good. Loved the bit with the PM dancing through 10 Downing Street. I was laughing hysterically.
Sherry, USA

So it is similar to all of the other films but what is wrong with that. It is a well-acted light hearted, and sometimes very moving look at life and it was a real joy to watch. All of the actors were playing parts we had seen them do before in other pieces, but bringing them together in one film in a series of inter-related but quite separate plots was quite different. As you can see, I enjoyed it! Slightly too long and over-drawn in parts but this did not detract from enjoyment. As for being too sentimental - so what?
Ken Sloan, England

Richard Curtis' formula is starting to get very irritating indeed. Exploiting his audience's feelings with a cynisicm that gives lie to the supposed 'sentimentalism' of the film, we have moments of self-plagerism so obvious it insults our intellegence. We've all seen 'Four Weddings', so the inclusion of bitter sweet funeral elegies, subtitled miscommunications and revelations of unrequited love are all very tired. Moreover, many of the stories actually remain unresolved, pointing to extremely sloppy editing. Actors such as Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman deserve better material than they are given. Over all, a waste of talent on all levels.
laura , England

Love Actually is 2 hours of pure sentimentality, delivered by some of the UKs finest actors. I loved it! And it appears the rest of the packed cinema did also.
Richard, Maidstone, Kent

Absolutely stunning. The perfect film. Crushingly romantic, roaringly funny, warm, moving and beautiful. The cumulative emotional impact of the different stories is devastating. The ideal date movie. The ideal Christmas movie - move over 'It's A Wonderful Life'. (And anyone who criticises it for manipulating the audiences' emotions... that is what films are supposed to do)
Jonathan Morris, UK

Is it sentimental? Yes. Does it jump from character to character too fast? Yes. Did I think it was hysterically funny, and sad, and enjoy it immensely? Yes!
Sue Whitfield, England

Its a feel-good film but just a bit over-the-top with its sugary sentimentality. I saw it in the last States just before its release in the UK and the audition just loved it (do us Brits so continually use the f-word in every sentence?). The film gets you in the Christmas mood but the music is more enjoyable than the storylines.
Trish Broadley, East Grinstead, UK

A piece of fluff which was quite inane: to imagine Hugh Grant as the P.M. falling in love with the tea lady is beyond comprehension (EVEN IN FANTASY!). Also, Colin Firth supposedly falling for a person with whom he could not communnicate stretches one's imagination even further! The only word to describe the film is SILLY!!
christine tomchak, Canada

I really enjoyed the ideas behind some of the storylines- the temptation of Alan Rickman, and Emma Thomson's tortuous but dignified reaction. The idea of the relationship of a career woman being scuppered by her love for her ill brother was also very thought-provoking, but neither of these storylines were adequately probed. Instead, we had a skimming of some fairly feeble and predictable plots, and most of which were already ruined by the advert. Do they get together? Well they already are in the commercial.... Why do they do that? The funniest scenes were also ruined in this way. Richard Curtis can be side-splittingly funny, but this was just really too sentimental, although easily watchable.
Lucy, uk

Sweet overdose is right. I pity any diabetics in the audience.
Robert del Valle, USA

For goodness sake stop analysing it and just enjoy it!! I saw it during the previews last Sunday and loved it, in fact I am going tomorrow to see it again. I don't know anyone who has seen it that doesn't love it.
Liz, UK (Wales)

I totally disagree with the review above - Love Actually is Hilarious,I cried and laughed at the same time. I left feeling good and would go and see it again. I think you will find that love actually is Brilliant....and sometimes in a world that we live in we forget the one thing that keeps us together. Love
Victoria, UK



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