But earlier in the month, presumably also in anticipation of such broadcasts, Christopher Orr of The Atlantic offered his own evisceration. It's a bit woolly, goes so far as to say, "a few of the subplots, I will grant, work pretty well" (you might, grant) but is pretty much spot on about the film's dodgy gender politics notably that the only two female main characters have unhappy endings for no good reason.
"Which brings me to the film’s final message, which is, essentially: If something, God forbid, does go wrong—well, you’re screwed. It’s probably best if you give up on love altogether and get on with the rest of your life. This message is transmitted via the two storylines that do not culminate happily: the Linney-Santoro fling and the strained marriage of Rickman and Thompson. After pining interminably for Santoro, Linney finally gets her big opportunity after an office party, luring him back to her apartment to have sex. (Again, the idea that they might actually talk first—perhaps over a glass of wine?—is foreign to the movie’s whole conception of how love progresses.) Alas, their amorous coupling is interrupted by a phone call from her institutionalized brother, and then a second. Clearly, it’s hopeless—and not merely this particular date, but the relationship altogether. The idea of trying again another night is not even entertained. It’s not as though she’s caring for her disabled brother full-time: He’s in a state facility! His phone calls to her can’t be that great an inconvenience. (They do not, for example, prevent her from holding down a regular job.) But by the molehills-to-mountains calculus of Love Actually, Linney appears doomed to an early spinsterhood."On the same day, coincidentally, The AV Club posted an appreciation which is entertainingly delusional:
"Other filmmakers have attempted to make the big holiday-ensemble movie work after the success of Love, Actually, with both Valentine’s Day and New Years’ Eve trying to lock down a piece of the same territory. Both are atrocious, which only underscores Love Actually’s achievement."I've not seen New Year's Eve, but say what you like about Valentine's Day, at least it gives its female characters both some narrative agency and happy endings (even if like Love Actually, it's not all about romance, oddly, given the title). Plus it ignores He's Just Not That Into You. The hyperlink genre/narrative structure's essentially now been reduced to supporting these endless quasi-romantic comedies.
A couple of days later, Michael Kozio a reporter for PolitiFact offers what he thinks is a spirited defense for The Guardian which becomes a backhanded complement, as he attempts to suggest that it's ok that the female characters have a raw deal because they have more depth.
"But as people, they are much more complex and compelling than their male counterparts. Take, for example, Sarah (Laura Linney), who has been in love with her drop-dead gorgeous co-worker Karl for “two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, an hour and 30 minutes”. Their courtship is agonisingly interrupted by the needs of her mentally disabled brother, upon whom she lavishes unrelenting care and attention. This is a woman who has bricked up her own desires and devoted herself entirely to the service of someone who is rarely capable of expressing his gratitude, and it says a great deal about the power of unconditional love."He ultimately undoes himself here:
"In the end, I suppose it’s about what you demand out of art. We often place needlessly high burdens on individual pieces of entertainment, as if somehow every film should embody all that’s right in the world and always subscribe to our view of the ideal. Or perhaps I’m expecting too little."Yes, yes you are.
Like much of Curtis's self directed work (I haven't seen About Time yet so this is under advisement) it smugly pretends to be one thing whilst simultaneously doing something else. The Boat That Rocks is a creepy and insidious piece of work which also confirms and to some extent promotes the normalcy of the patriarchy and it's no good saying that as a period piece it simply reflects periodic behaviours. Go watch something like the superb Love Field, then come back and tell that period piece can't both reflect and challenge historical attitudes within a nostalgic construct. That the people involved with The Boat That Rocked let the bed trick scene through, that Curtis wrote and directed it and Nick Frost etc thought it was funny, continues to reflect badly on all of them and the journalists who don't seem to have asked for a justification.
Anyway, back in Love Actually, Curtis himself in The Guardian explained what went wrong under the auspices of explaining what went right:
"Although all the strands come together in the airport at the end, it still felt like making 10 separate films. It was a massively difficult edit. The order I originally wrote it in didn't work at all, so we had to reorder it completely. It was a bizarre four-month game of 3D chess."Which explains why Christmas Eve in the film seems to go on for ever...
The sequel received its trailer:
Which is funny but not nearly long enough.
Meanwhile, Orr at The Atlantic was feeling embattled enough to produce another article defending his original review AND the subsequent piece posted above against various critics and defenders who are all ulimately wrong.
"I think there are two flaws common to many of the defenses of Love Actually I’ve seen in comments, on Twitter, and elsewhere on the web. The first is attempting to defend each subplot on an individual basis. I agree that (with one notable exception) any given storyline is perfectly defensible on its own merits. The problem, rather, is the patterns that emerge when you consider the film as a whole. One subplot about an older man wooing a much-younger subordinate? Fine. But three? And on it goes: not one, but two gags (three, if you count the Colin subplot) about how the only possible way a man could overcome heartbreak is with the assistance of one or more supermodels; two storylines in which women (never men) see their romantic lives shattered by obstacles that ought to be surmountable; and, most important, upwards of half a dozen subplots in which characters go directly from initial physical infatuation to (presumed) happily-ever-afters, without remotely bothering to get to know one another in between. These repeated themes are not coincidental."In other words, much of December felt like open season on the film, which was a nice Christmas present. Jezebel moved into the territory, making similar points as my dissertation and The Atlantic but funny:
"Okay. Seriously. Is this Colin Firth storyline actually about human trafficking? Colin Firth shows up in France and this woman just gets dropped off at his house and he "falls in love with her" even though they cannot communicate and the only thing he knows about her is that he's really, really into her butt. But it's "love"! So he just "has" her now! She's "his"! Colin Firth decided they should be together without ever saying a single word to each other, and so that's what happens. Congratulations, now you have a weird stranger who lives in your house and fat-shames you in Portuguese. "Love."Eventually npr released this:
"This entire movie is just straight white men acting upon women they think they "deserve." This entire movie is just men doing things."
Nope, I won't stop fighting about Love Actually, actually. I mean wow.