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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Peter Mountain, ©Universal Studios. All rights reserved.)

photo caption:
CAUGHT OFF GUARD: The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant, left) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) did not particularly want to be seen together at a Christmas pageant.

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Love Actually: Early-Arriving Christmas Comedy Takes Tender-Hearted Look at Love.

Kam Williams

Christmas may come but once a year, but it certainly seems to arrive earlier and earlier. There was a time when Hollywood would wait respectfully till after Thanksgiving to start hauling out its syrupy, sentiment-laden stories set against a Yuletide backdrop of decorated trees, snowy streets, and ruby-cheeked carolers. The exhilarating Love Actually, written and directed by Richard Curtis, is such an extraordinary treat, however, that one is inclined to overlook the offensive encroachment.

Mr. Curtis has long been recognized as one of the best comedy writers around. In 1995, the New Zealand-born British citizen received a Best Original Script Oscar nomination for Four Weddings and a Funeral, the film which catapulted Hugh Grant to superstardom. He was also the brains behind the screenplays for two of Hugh's greatest hits, namely, Notting Hill (1999) and Bridget Jones' Diary (2001).

Curtis makes his belated directorial debut, here, tapping Grant to head an ensemble cast assembled for one rather ambitious romantic film. This holiday comedy is essentially about the kinds of complications that can ensue from the impulsive confession of a crush to the object of one's affection. We see that for some, such an admission leads to love, while for others it remains unrequited. For the rest it means a rocky road of emotional entanglements far too complex to resolve in a two-hour movie.

The scattered plot and storyline follow ten relationships, most of which are triangles. So, we have over twenty characters to keep track of, all of whom are earnestly interested in finding fulfillment, even if some seem to go about it in a frustrating fashion.

There's the Prime Minister (Grant) and United States President (Billy Bob Thornton) both after the same intern (Martine McCutcheon). The shy porno actor (Martin Freeman) bashful about his deep feelings for his co-star (Joanna Page). The dowdy, middle-aged housewife (Emma Thompson) wondering about her husband (Alan Rickman) whose head has been turned by his solicitous young secretary (Heike Makatsch), and so forth.

Though the average audience might not be prone to pull for some of these protagonists, the film proves the power of a well-crafted script when executed by seasoned professionals. And this touching tale explores various forms of love, such as that of a grieving widower (Liam Neeson) consoling his recently-orphaned step-son (Thomas Sangster) or that of an aging rock star (Bill Nighy) for his ever-loyal road manager (Gregor Fisher).

Laura Linney shines in a role reminiscent of her Oscar-nominated performance in You Can Count on Me, playing a woman too committed to caring for her troubled brother to notice her own desire for her colleague (Rodrigo Santoro). The assortment of sundry liaisons also includes a jealous best man (Andrew Lincoln) after either the husband (Chiwetel Ejifor) or the wife (Keira Knightley), a kid suffering from pangs of puppy love, a writer who's tongue tied when it comes to his pretty Portuguese housekeeper, and an America-bound, confirmed bachelor who wishes they all could be Wisconsin girls.

The movie was shot on location around London and Surrey, cinematically gift-wrapping the country for revelers ready to get in the spirit of the season. Expect to reflect, to bellow, and to weep along the way to one surprisingly tidy, tearjerker of an ending. Without ever sounding a false note, Love Actually manages to be nuttier than Notting Hill, more satisfying than Bridget Jones' Diary, and even more intricate than Four Weddings and a Funeral. My only regrets are that Richard Curtis waited so long to make his first movie and that I'm only allowed to award this moving comic masterpiece four stars.

Excellent. Rated R for nudity, graphic sexuality, and profane language

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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