Chic-Flick Trailers

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

THE EMSEMBLE PIECE: Curtis' Love Actually! Love is everywhere I go...

This may me one of those times you just don't believe me and my crazy sub-genre inventions, but I beg of you, hear me out. The Ensemble Piece is not just a movie of a standard genre with an ensemble cast but a form all on it's own. I am sad to say that this is yet another film deemed a romantic comedy featuring an ensemble cast and while, yes, it does have romance and it does have comedy, it goes beyond what this limiting genre is capable of. This sub-genre is a more general Sisterhood flick, because it features the different kinds of relationships between women and men. The ensemble is also like the fantasy genre that can be integrated with wide span of different movies including films like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003), CrashOcean's Eleven (2001) and it's sequels (2004, 2007). Other chick flicks or romantic-comedy-like films that fit into this sub-genre are A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), Playing by Heart (1998) and the newest and sadly disappointing He's Just Not that Into You (2009).

A movie that
I think uses all it can from this sub-genre and does it well is Love Actually (2003), originally called Love Actually is All Around which pretty much gives you a general synopsis of the story. The most appealing thing about this movie and possibly what made it successful is it's star packed cast. Think of ten of the most interesting, talented and popular British actors. I'm sure at least five are in this movie. And while I know it is shallow to see movies because of the actors themselves, I am a firm believer in the quality of the actors in a film can tell you a lot about the quality of the film itself. True to ensemble style almost every character is connected through an "it's a small world" kind of theme; Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant) and Karen(Emma Thompson) are brother and sister, Harry (Alan Rickman, as in Snape, anyone?) is Sarah's (Laura Linney) boss, and Jamie (Colin Firth)and Sarah are friends with Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) and so on and so forth.

Sadly because there are so many performances in an ensemble film they are usually snubbed by the Oscars and other award-giving societies, especially in the acting category. I remember critics going on and on about Bill Nighy (Davy Jones anyone?) and Emma Thompson but they were snubbed in the more popular award categories. Something similar happened to nominee, Matt Dillon for Crash who was over-shadowed by George Clooney and the actors in The Lord of the Rings, specifically Andy Serkis and Sean Astin, who, The Academy revealed, who were number sixes on the nomination list and to . On a more positive note, it did receive Golden Globe nominations for Best Musical or Comedy and Best Screenplay by writer and director, Richard Curtis. He is one of the prominent romantic-comedy writers who gave us Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999), and the Bridget Jones Series (2001, 2004) and makes his directorial debut with this film.

This movie, once again, received a disappointing 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes fresh meter and not much better on the average use and critics ratings on Yahoo! Movies. Most of the negative comments from the critics argue that the movie is too long and drags just before the end which I didn't notice the first or last time I watched it. A few also complain about that the number of connected storylines are too ambitious and do not deliver. It's hard for me to appreciate these valid criticisms because most are written nonchalantly, as if they're expected, or give no evidence or insight into their claims. Thank the Lord for Ebert, who makes similar claims but writes them factually, without disdain and with evidence:

The movie's only flaw is also a virtue: It's jammed with characters, stories, warmth and laughs, until at times Curtis seems to be working from a checklist of obligatory movie love situations and doesn't want to leave anything out. At 129 minutes, it feels a little like a gourmet meal that turns into a hot-dog eating contest.

My thoughts are that I am a big fan of the ensemble. I lov
e seeing the dynamics of interconnected stories that are like short stories that give the good stuff and only the good stuff. I also like seeing the country of dry humour, wisdom and cynicism depicted as normal, fallible human beings who are on the same quest for happiness as the rest of us. Who knew the English were such big softies? And on top of that there is even a scene where a guy and his step-son indulge in a little chick-flick therapy. I like to think they're sending a subliminal message.

Favourite quotes: "When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love." -Hugh Grant voice over, "Christmas shopping, never an easy or a pleasant task" -Harry, "But you know, the thing about romance is... people only get together right at the very end." -Sam, "Hiya kids. Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!" - Billy Mack, "Meatloaf definitely got laid at least once. For God's sake, Ringo Starr married a Bond girl!" -Daniel
Chemistry level: 5/5. Even the kiddies had good chemistry.
Best love story: A hard choice indeed. I'll break it down for you: sweetest was by far the movie stand-ins (Martin Freeman and Joanna Page),
saddest by far is Sarah's that is a conflict between her love for her brother and her co-worker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro)and
Best performance
While it is really nice to see Liam Neeson as really light-hearted and funny, Emma Thompson really steals the show. She tries to stop herself from having a break down while listening to one of the greatest Joni Mitchell songs ever (and it's pretty incredible. But the most entertaining by far are also guest appearances by Billy Bob Thorton as the pompous American President and Rowan Atkinson (Mr.Bean, anyone?) as a sort of quirky Puck-like character who helps out little Sam(Thomas Sangster) and takes his sweet time with everything he does.
Interesting choices: The film begins and finishes with scenes involving real people experiencing different kinds of love in the Heathrow airport. Apparently the director filmed there for a few days and asked people's permission when he caught something he wanted to put in the film. Also, there are relationships that are interracial, have a large age difference, a language barrier and an obvious class difference between the Prime Minister and Natalie(Martine McCutcheon) from the "dodgy end" who everyone seems to think is chubby. By the way, she so is not.
Musical Atmosphere: The climactic theme music that gets the audience's heart racing happens at two significant moments in the film: when the Prime Minister stands up to the President after he hits on his girl and during the montage in the last moments of the film. I will admit whole-heartedly that this is a feel-good moment in a feel-good movie.
Best overall moment
: Hugh Grant's dance solo. Not only a white-boy dance but a pasty, British white-boy dance to a 1980's pop song. Classic.


  1. I absolutely love this film. And you are right, Emma Thompson's performance is unforgettable!
    It is sort of dissed by many people (who havn't seen it) for being just another romantic comedy but I think it really is a great film and shouldn't be overlooked just because it has romance as its theme. There are real feelings portrayed here.

  2. Thanks Vanessa!
    I think it's a really interesting movie about love, as it's topic and not just it's genre. I think this movie looks at it in a different way than a romantic comedy is capable of doing! I just get more mad every time I see something labelled a romantic comedy because most of the time, it's really not.

  3. I haven't seen Love Actually.. yes all my friends gasp in horror when I say that too. I've heard it's good, I'll have to check it out.
    You really didn't like He's Just Not That Into You? I thought it was funny!

  4. Hi there, I love this film as well, and reading your review makes me feel totally proud for loving it. It's definitely not a typical romantic comedy.

  5. Courtney H: You must see it! Definitely a girlfriend movie night must-see. Let me know what you think. And yes, I actually hated most of He's Just Not that Into You. I could write a whole post about it. The best part was Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck's storyline that was very secondary (which is weird because I find them both boring). I thought it was offensive actually. Thanks for the comment though!

    Jizzka: Thanks for the comment! I'm so glad you feel that way because that's practically the purpose of my whole blog. I'm really glad it affected someone in that way. Not all chick flicks are worthy of glowing reviews or feeling proud, but this one definitely is!