The Christmas comedy “Love Actually” was released 20 years ago. Even if people still enjoy watching Hugh Grant, there are some things the director would do differently today.
At the beginning there is a scene at the airport. “When I feel depressed about the global political situation, I always think of the arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport,” says Hugh Grant, as you watch in slow motion as people embrace each other as they arrive at the airport. “It is commonly said that we live in a world full of hatred and greed. But that is not true.”
The tragicomedy, which premiered in Germany on November 20, 2003, is called “Love Actually” in the English original. The film begins five weeks before Christmas and weaves together the stories of several people in Britain. Some cinemas are now showing it in a restored version for the anniversary in the weeks from November 23rd.
Since its launch in 2003, the film has been one of the films that people watch again and again during Advent. Because a Christmas without it isn’t really Christmas for them.
Hugh Grant, as the British Prime Minister, falls in love with a female employee (“Who do you have to fuck to get a cup of tea and a chocolate chip cookie?”). Bill Nighy sings “Christmas is all around me” with a silver chain. And Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) takes a long time to wrap a gift. Very long.
What the director says about the film today
Director Richard Curtis is, so to speak, the king of rom-coms, i.e. romantic comedies. He wrote the screenplays for “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill” and also worked on the screenplay for “Bridget Jones”.
He recently gave an interview to his daughter Scarlett Curtis at the literary festival in Cheltenham, England. The author asked her father a number of questions at the event organized by the newspapers “Times” and “Sunday Times”. Some people felt that his films created unrealistic expectations of love. Does he see it that way too?
If he did that, it wasn’t his intention, the director replied. He believes that love plays an important role in many people’s lives. “But if every depiction of love only shows how it goes wrong, then you have nothing to give you hope.”
Some things are no longer funny today
His daughter noted quite humorously that her father had now learned a lot from her about feminism. And that some criticized the portrayal of women in some of his films. For example, if “Bridget Jones” is supposed to be overweight but played by a thin woman. In Love Actually, the Prime Minister’s aide Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is portrayed as chubby and criticized for her supposedly huge thighs.
In addition, his films only showed a few black people, his daughter said. In “Love Actually” there are superiors who behaved problematically, such as the Prime Minister. Looking back, would he do anything differently?
“Yes. I wish I had been ahead of the curve,” Curtis said, according to a recording of the festival’s panel. There were some things he didn’t think about enough. “I remember how shocked I was five years ago when Scarlett said to me: “You can never use the word fat again.” She was right. “Those jokes just aren’t funny anymore.”
Beloved scenes, parodied scenes
When “Love Actually” came to the cinema, opinions varied. A critic from The Guardian called the film a nicely packaged feel-good comedy. With a few exceptions, many of the stories are rubbish. The New York Times criticized the film for being an indigestible Christmas pudding and resembling a record label greatest hits compilation. The industry magazine “Variety”, on the other hand, believed in the film’s success.
According to the director, the fact that the film is still enjoyed today could also be due to the fact that one often no longer knows which scene actually comes next. In fact, there are so many stories told that some episodes are forgotten until next year.
There are also very different favorite stories to discover. The woman whose marriage is in danger of failing (Emma Thompson with Alan Rickman)? The head of government dancing to “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters (Hugh Grant)? Or actress Keira Knightley, who receives a love confession on cardboard cards? This scene – woman standing at the door while her husband’s best friend confesses his feelings to her with boxes – has been replicated many times. From former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example. Or in the series “Ted Lasso” – but that’s about bad breath. That’s another story.