In which @feelinglistless takes down Love Actually with the thoroughness of a military operation - feelinglistless.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/love-a…Which did make me giggle. I hadn't meant to. Not really.
— Jon Arnold (@The_Arn) January 2, 2013
I did ask in the original post if there was anything I missed, and did I, oh did I. As someone called Miranda noticed in the comments:
"I can't believe you glossed over the fact that Karen is perhaps the most deeply unpleasant character of the entire film: she brushes off Daniel during a phonecall literally after his wife has just died because her daughter apparently has something more important to say (ooh, parts in a nativity - clearly that beats a dead wife), and when he understandably gets upset later over his dead wife and his potentially-depressed son, she tells him to 'get a grip, people hate sissies. No-one's ever going to shag you if you cry all the time'. Monstrous behaviour, I felt absolutely no sympathy for her and can totally see why hers is one of the more negative stories."Having not bothered to watch the film again before writing about it (some things are seared on your memory always), I hadn't remembered Karen's attitude, at least not in this way. My memory was that she was implying that he should move on by letting him hear the bustle of her life. But on reflection her attitude could be construed as lacking in empathy though I wonder if it is that because of something lost in editing, some revelation.
But I would add that I don't think it makes her story some kind of fate/revenge thing in which her husband cheats on her as some kind of karmic payback for her attitude to Daniel. If that is the case it makes the whole film even more loathsome. That said, if her attitude does turn off viewers it's still a black mark because she is one of only a couple of really prominent female roles.
Another sticking point is the PM's attitude to Martine's character. Here's djm4, again from the comments section:
"Admittedly, I've only seen the film once (and, having had much the reaction to it that you did only more so, have no desire to see it again) but from memory, doesn't the Hugh Grant PM basically sack Martine McCutcheon for having the temerity to be sexually harassed by the US President? And yet she still loves him and ends up with him at the end, because nothing says 'romance' like the patriarchy fucking you over."Again, I don't remember having that reading when I last saw the film, but again given everything else which is going on in those two hours, anything is possible.
"IIRC, one possible reading of the PM's actions at that time is that he's deliberately engineered a compromising encounter for the US President in order to get him on the back foot, get some political leverage, and gain the advantage in negotiations. Which makes his actions even more vile."
The expected viewer attitude to this story is strange. When she is "redistributed", my understanding was that we're supposed to understand the difficulty of power, of not being able to show your feelings, all that gubbins. To an extent, having already seen The American President, which has some of the same gracenotes, we're somewhat primed as to what to expect.
Also, as this brilliant blog post linked to by Lis asks, what kind of message is this storyline telling its audience and especially any teenagers watching. Martine's character is forced to repeatedly apologise for something which was done to her, until Hugh relents and lets her into his life, a move for which she's entirely grateful.
As a wise man once said, "Fuck all that shit, Silent Bob".
Yet, as the author of that post explains, despite all of that, despite the rape overtones of the original encounter and everything her character is put through, until the spell's broken, we're desperate for them to get together. We want to see them kiss, essentially because they're a couple in a romantic comedy.
Which kind of makes you wonder how many romantic comedies are predicated on men behaving badly with the happy ending of the film predicated on the women forgiving them usually because of some grand gesture. When Harry Met Sally is to an extent, though the script is clever enough to give Sally a voice to tell Harry what he did wrong. And slap him.
Now, I'm trying to remember a romcom where this isn't the case, which is tonight's homework, I suppose, if you like. Is there a romcom where these roles are reversed, or where the couple get together because they just do? It's hard. For all its apparently innovation, even Friends With Benefits dips into formula.
Something different to end this on. In the last couple of years, the Hong Kong film industry produced what sounds like a repost to Curtis's film. Here's what the wikipedia page has to say about Love Actually... Sucks!
"It explores several themes traditionally regarded as 'taboo' in Hong Kong society, in an unusually open, convention-defying way, featuring frequent full-frontal male and female nudity [...] (It) was inspired by real-life events, and opens with a dramatic wedding feast. It tells a variety of stories about love that has gone wrong: a brother and sister in an illicit relationship, a married painter who falls in love with his young male life model, a dance school teacher who is besotted with his senior student, and a lesbian couple, one of whom has role-play paranoia, and is caught in a complex love triangle."Here's the trailer, It's NSFW. A lot.
Try watching that with "All I Want for Christmas..." playing over the top.