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LOVE ACTUALLY

Numerous interlocking stories, set mainly in England, explore the sometimes wondrous, sometimes weird ways of love.

CAST: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Denise Richards, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman

DIRECTOR: Richard Curtis

"‘Love Actually’ is an indigestible Christmas pudding from the British whimsy factory responsible for such reasonably palatable confections as ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Bridget Jones's Diary.’ A romantic comedy swollen to the length of an Oscar-trawling epic — nearly two and a quarter hours of cheekiness, diffidence and high-tone smirking — it is more like a record label's greatest-hits compilation or a ‘very special’ sitcom clip-reel show than an actual movie…the film's governing idea of love is both shallow and dishonest, and its sweet, chipper demeanor masks a sour cynicism about human emotions that is all the more sleazy for remaining unacknowledged. It has the calloused, leering soul of an early-60's rat-pack comedy, but without the suave, seductive bravado…a patchwork of contrived naughtiness and forced pathos." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"The combination of the clever script, top-notch talent and engaging subject — love in its many forms — makes ‘Love’ one of the more entertaining experiences a moviegoer is likely to have during the holiday season… At its finest, ‘Love’ is reminiscent of the best moments of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral.’ When it veers into slightly corny turf, it brings to mind the far-more-mediocre ‘Notting Hill’…for tearjerking moments, no one can beat Thompson's performance as the stalwart wife of the straying Rickman. A Christmas Eve scene showcases her talent for comedy, pathos and pluck, all the while breaking our hearts." --Claudia Puig, USA Today

"In pusuit of laughs and lumps in the throat, Curtis employs every clever or hoary trick he’s ever learned, freely pillaging his own movies and others’. Offering up nine loosely connected love stories, Curtis has whipped up a heaping meal of cinematic comfort food, sweet as English pudding and just spicy enough to earn an R rating…Slick, expertly acted and shameless, ‘Love Actually’ is alternately beguiling and bloated, witty and warmed over, smart and pandering." --David Ansen, Newsweek

"… a busy, overstuffed and achingly saccharine ensemble vehicle…Although Curtis has rounded up a redoubtable cast, he misuses them in a series of too-cute gags and set pieces…A few recognizably human feelings manage to peek through sentimentalism that seems to have been applied with a trowel: Thompson plays the harried, middle-aged wife with dignity and pathos, and Rickman and Neeson wring as much self-respect as they can from roles that are far from fully realized." --Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

"‘Love Actually’ is a paradox, actually: a highly engineered puffball...Too often what Curtis gives us, along with wiggy, literate barbs, are feel-good jamborees dripping with treacle and uplift…It has moments, sequences even, that are roisterously funny in the best antic, high-low tradition of British comedy. The film’s surplus of saccharine, however, will probably give pause to theater owners. After all, why would anyone watching this movie bother going to the concession stand for sweets?" Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"There are more hugs per square inch of celluloid than in all the Christmas movies in all the world. ‘Love Actually’ has too much of everything, actually—stars, cameos, crises, climaxes… The movie is a giant box of holiday chocolates, a few of them bittersweet but most of them densely nougaty, with love songs poured into the gaps like treacle. It's terrific fun for an hour, but by the last of its 129 minutes you might find yourself going into insulin shock." --David Edelstein, Slate

"… high-caloric moviemaking, all punch lines and climaxes. Watching it is like gorging on icing…The scene-stealer is Bill Nighy as an over-the-hill rocker vamping up an old hit, ‘Love is All Around,’ to be a holiday perennial, ‘Christmas Is All Around.’ He gets to be lewd and rude and cynical while everyone else is giggling or making goo-goo eyes or smiling through tears…If you feel yourself glowing after ‘Love Actually,’ you might be suffering from sugar shock." --Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

"…the most shamelessly calculating bit of fluff I’ve seen since ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ — all of which Curtis wrote or co-wrote, and almost all of which I could kick myself for enjoying as much as I did…If you’re going to have your emotional responses shunted around like a gear stick, it might as well be by someone who writes dialogue as funny as Curtis does, and who, in his first outing as a director, brings Oxbridge panache and unquenchable sincerity to what is essentially a souped-up situation comedy." --Ella Taylor, LA Weekly

"All through the (quite long) picture we get sticky bits, but then Thompson or Grant or Rickman or one of the others speaks a word with such delicacy or lights a smile from within so truthfully or reveals a complexity through such a small change of expression that we brave the bumps for the pleasures." --Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

"Curtis' situations bound wildly between cheerful sexual crudity and extravagant sappiness, with not too much in between that resembles human reality. His thesis is that love not only makes the world go around, it turns us all into blithering idiots… His script will go to any lengths to be cute, and his direction tends to be overly broad. In the end, he wears us out with the sheer volume of witty and endearing characters." --William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"‘Love Actually’ bounds from the screen like a Christmas puppy -- jumping up and down, licking you in the face, nibbling at you with its tiny baby teeth and leaving puddles and debris all over the place. It's fun for a while, but when you realize the mutt's never going to settle down, you may wish you'd bought a stuffed toy instead…The movie is a half-hour too long, and there are entire relationships that don't work." --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News

"By far the best single performance in the film -- and it is really, really terrific, utterly believable and moving -- is by Emma Thompson. To the extent that there is genuine feeling in the movie that doesn't feel slickly manipulative, it's in the scenes involving her character. It's that plotline and another one involving a refreshingly cynical washed-up pop singer (the hilarious Bill Nighy) that save ‘Love Actually’ from being too artificial and cloying to bear…Curtis is a filmmaker capable of genuinely affecting and powerful work--who chooses instead the easy grin, the pandering feel-good moment and the overcooked joke." --Jonathan Foreman, The New York Post

"‘Love Actually’ feels less like a brand-new movie than a greatest-hits compendium. It offers nothing new and instead makes do with presenting the warmed-over like something pulled fresh from the oven; it's comfort food for the holidays, easily digested and passed before the new year sets in and you resolve to swear off such rich and unhealthy edibles as this." --Robert Wilonsky, The Dallas Observer