Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WHENEVER I GET GLOOMY WITH THE STATE OF THE WORLD:  The never-ending debate over the merits of Love Actually continues.  Christopher Orr, The Atlantic, anti:
Love Actually is exceptional in that it is not merely, like so many other entries in the genre, unromantic. Rather, it is emphatically, almost shockingly, anti-romantic.... I think it offers up at least three disturbing lessons about love. First, that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind. Second, that the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say “I love you”—preferably with some grand gesture—and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss. And third, that any actual obstacle to romantic fulfillment, however surmountable, is not worth the effort it would require to overcome.
In response, Mother Jones' Ben Dreyfuss:

To be honest, if you're going to compare it to any one film you should probably compare it to Crash, the working title of which I'd like to think was Racism, Actually. If the theme of Crash is "We're all at least a little bit racist deep inside" the theme of Love Actually is "We're all a little crazily romantic deep inside." 
Love Actually is, in fact, less a film about love as it is a film about people who think they are in love. Almost all of the stories center around people who either early on, or before the film even begins, figure out they're nuts about someone and then spend the five weeks before Christmas wondering, "What do I do now?" It's a bit like Hamlet but with romantic gestures instead of, you know, death.


  1. Joseph Finn9:12 AM

    Does anyone else find it a bit...odd at how much analysis LA gets? I mean, I love the movie, but I'm not holding it up as high art or low schlock; it's a very enjoyable, pleasant romantic comedy, And yet every Christmas, this is the one that gets picked at. Where are my essays in Mother Jones about The Family Stone?

  2. Randy9:55 AM

    Ben Dreyfuss uses the phrase "center around", and therefore his entire argument is invalid.
    Personally, I have no strong feelings about Love, Actually. I saw it when it came out, and thought it was ok. Haven't really given it much thought since. Maybe I'll revisit it one of these years.

  3. Marsha11:05 AM

    I saw it, it was pleasant enough, but about as far as I get. But there seems to be a massive horde of people who think this is the greatest movie ever, not just the greatest Christmas movie ever. I don't get it, but the fanatic devotion is what makes people dissect the thing.

    Best addition to the Christmas movie canon in the last 20 years is definitely Elf. (Because Jews know these things.)

  4. I watch it for Emma Thompson. She cuts me up and leaves me for dead in that movie. The other stories range from ridiculous to annoying to meh for me. Then of course, there's Bill Nighy who's a delight.

    I'm conflicted, apparently.

  5. bellawilfer3:31 PM

    Full disclosure, Ben's sister Emily is a dear friend, so I am slightly biased, but I'm totally team Ben here. Ben's not saying this movie is the most romantic movie ever (cause it's not), but he is saying that it's a movie that's honest about love. Love is insane and people act insane (sometimes) when they are in love. That's what the movie is about - and how sometimes an insane declaration of love for a person who seems utterly unlikely to share your feelings can work out (Hugh Grant's story, Colin Firth's story) and sometimes…well…it doesn't (Andrew Lincoln), but you just had to try anyway. To me, the movie is saying that loving someone is about being brave and being willing to risk the possibility that it won't work out. (I also think Ben makes a very important point about why Jojen Reed loves Joanna that the other essay completely misses.)

  6. It makes me glad my go to Christmas movies are Christmas Vacation and Scrooged.

  7. Karen Peters8:15 PM

    I love Ben's essay, particularly those three paragraphs near the end starting with "So, you meet someone..." Perfect.

    I've given the movie a lot more thought after reading all these essays and columns then I ever did when I first started watching it, but if I have to examine my feelings, this one probably comes closest to home for me.