Film As you will have noticed from the many click bait articles which have slipstreamed in its stead containing what amount to a synopsis and screenshots for people without the patience to sit through ten minutes of moving images with sound, a Love Actually sequel was broadcast during this year's Comic Relief. I did not watch Comic Relief. Comic Relief stopped actually being comic relief many years ago when budgets were clearly cut and many of the comedians I actually liked retired in favour of the kinds of people who turn up on comedy panel shows. Oh and when paradoxically they stopped doing special versions of comedy panel shows.
But I did dip in after seeing High Plains Drifter for the Love Actually sequel if only so that I wasn't going to be spoilt by the many click bait articles which have slipstreamed in its stead containing what amount to a synopsis and screenshots. Perhaps it would provide an magical epilogue to the original monstrosity with the ability to retrospectively nullify some of its crimes. In the event, caught between homage, parody and straight sequel and shot in a televisual style on 16:9 digi-cameras, well, no, no it didn't. The moment at the end of the making of documentary on the Spaced dvd which showed what happened next for Tim and Daisy was more relevant and essential.
Yet it feels like I should provide some analysis, not least because thanks to discovering the joy of reading and binging on Star Trek, this blog has lately become without form and void just as I feared it might do at some point. Linking to the same bloody film review and old blog posts on Twitter isn't the same thing. To provide some structure I'll reuse some of the subject headings from that same bloody film review even though most of them probably won't fit. There's not a lot you can do with a ten minute piece. On the upside, unlike the content of that original post, I don't have the final mark for a post-graduate degree counting on it being coherent.
It’s not a romantic comedy.
Still isn't. One of the inherent problems with sequels to romantic comedies is that narrative unity has already been fulfilled first time around. That's why there tends to be so few of them, there's nothing less amusing than watching the same couple fall in love again. That's why they generally seek to focus on some other couple who're related to the main characters from the original film, as per This is 40 or My Big Fat Greek Wedding II. The reason the Before ... trilogy works is because the first film didn't provide a solid ending, there was a moment of doubt, something which could be picked up later in the unplanned sequel.
Love Actually again isn't trying to be a rom-com in the strictest sense, setting itself up to follow the pattern of Richard Linklater's films and the Cold Feet revival. What are these beloved characters doing now? As with both those examples, in the answer in this text is getting old, although with the slim running time there precious little space to enter into any profound discussions about the implications of ageing. About as close as the script comes to such is Liam Neeson's Daniel acting like a Outbin clicker "You won't believe how old your son looks now ..."
Though it's noticeable that all of the original film's featured hetro couples are still together after fourteen years. The huge mistep is in killing off Gregor Fisher's manager character offscreen and in an offhand comic way. His ambiguous relationship with Bill Nighy's Billy Mac was one of the film's few truly poignant moments and to plop that revelation into the middle of this seems ill advised and somewhat ruins the conclusion of that storyline depending on how canonical you consider this sequel to be. There'll be fan arguments on discussion boards for years to come. "But it was for charity and featured the Eastenders!" "Yes, but it's the Rani's third tv appearance!" That sort of thing.
It’s poorly edited.
Arguable. Mainly a series of sketches, there is some motioning towards the structure of the original film with some cross cutting between some characters single scenes and the sections featuring Hugh's PM and Atkinson's angel (or whatever he's supposed to be). But there's no sense of time. Is the car ride between Jamie and Aurelia supposed to happening while the shop assistant is filling the bag or are we supposed to assume that they're disembodied sketches, the cross cutting between mirroring the approach used frequently in The League of Gentlemen or The Fast Show?
Presumably the idea is to create an increased longevity to that shop scene but the point of the scene in the original film, other than providing levity to a moment about a man buying a present for his potential mistress, was that due to the longevity, the audience, like Alan Rickman's character was stuck in that moment watching the shenanigans as they pressed on and on and on. Cutting away here kills the joke stone dead. Not that it was especially funny to begin with due to the lack of surprises. Especially when Curtis cut to the massive queue outside. Didn't see that coming. At all.
They’re barely characters.
Quadruply true here. Imagine if you'd been lucky enough to have never seen Love Actually before watching what amounts to a series of callbacks to (admittedly for some) beloved scenes. None of it really makes any sense and only goes to highlight as I indicated in the original review, just how much they're simply playing versions of the kinds of roles they've played elsewhere.
It's also notable that most of the male actors in here haven't changed the kinds of roles they play that much in the meantime. Most of them have simply shifted into more character rather than leading men roles, with the exception of Liam Neeson who has become an all the skills action hero something none of us expected. I miss the man who made Kinsey.
It’s less funny and even a bit creepy the second time around.
Good god, the Andrew Lincoln section makes that original storyline even worse. Now we can watch the original film safe in the knowledge that stalkery Mark is going to return in fourteen years to essentially shame Juliet for not choosing him in the first place and then boasting that he's married Kate Moss. Who actually turns up so she can be part of the reveal. I appreciate this is supposed to be funny and charming and a homage to the Claudia Schiffer cameo in the original film and has a metafictional element in which the idiot boards talk the viewer but the fact that Richard Curtis still doesn't get why all of this is horrendous, unfunny, creepy and sinister does him no credit. In this month Empire, during an interview with Paul Feig he even mentions someone calling this the "the stalker scene" to his face. He knows. He knows. And yet here we are again.
It’s about middle class white men seducing their employees.
This sequel only goes to remind us of this and even uses their change of status as a source of humour. "I liked you best when you worked for me" he says. Christ. Oh how they must reminisce. "Remember when I used to pay you a salary?" There's no indication as to whether Aurelia has her own job now and without much more evidence it's not fair of me to speculate. But that is a lot of children. Hopefully they share the caring duties.
Nearly all of the men are creeps anyway.
Fucks sake Jamie haven't you learnt Portugese yet? You've been married to her for over a decade and her English is amazing. Your children know the language better than you do. I appreciate this was the point of that scene and writing is hard and finding something new to do with this couple was probably tough but it makes Jamie look even more foolish than he did in the original film and that's saying something. Admittedly that's not creepy in the Mark sense, but another definition is "slow steady movement, especially when imperceptible" which seems to fit the bill here.
The only two “main” female characters have unhappy endings.
Almost all of the female characters are still in supporting roles and used to create a moment of surprise, Natalie bursting in on her husband dancing, Kate Moss's cameo and Joanna's reveal (It literally is "Here's Love Actually's Olivia Olsen all grown up! Photos on pages 3, 4 & 8"). Incidentally, in that same EMPIRE interview, Richard Curtis says the Laura Linney storyline from the first film is something he's most proud of. He still doesn't get it, even now.
Assuming they’re main characters at all.
The one exception is Aurelia who has one of the longer speeches and funniest reactions in the piece (making Jamie's lack of language skills somewhat forgivable). A glance at the IMDb indicates Lúcia Moniz has been in solid work on Portugese television since 2003. Good for her.
It has a stunning lack of diversity.
Still somewhat true in a lead character sense due to the casting choices from the original film. Chiwetel Ejiofor remains on the sidelines. Gregor Fisher's potentially gay character has been killed off. But the supporting cast is exceedingly diverse, notably the boy who acts as straight person for Atkinson's antics and the press pack in the press conference at number 10, although that is still overwhelmingly white (probably simply reflecting the industry more than anything given how many of the people in the crowd were invited from actual news organisations).
Three redeeming features:
(1) "And Piers Morgan's still alive." Oh burn and the only genuinely laugh out loud funny moment due to its audacity. Morgan spent Comic Relief Day in a vow of silence. I wonder if that broke when he sat watching this and heard that comment. It's amazing he wasn't straight on Twitter saying nasty things about Hacked Off again or whatever.
(2) Hugh's final speech, which he plays beautifully, recalling his superb performance in Curse of the Fatal Death. Curtis knows how to write this stuff still at least and the message, as Mark Kermode also says, that everything is going to be alright in the end, is just the sort of thing we all need to hear right now. Plus the Elf joke which I'm sure pleased Gary Bainbridge who hates that film just as much as I hate Love Actually.
(3) It was short.
There was a time when I adored Love Actually, before having to take it apart frame by frame for my dissertation and I'd be lying if I didn't say that there was something Proustian about revisiting these characters or that re-hearing the Shakespeare in Love theme at the end didn't make me sigh. Some people still love this film and I can't hold that against them. Indeed this almost made me want to go back and watch it again after ten years. Perhaps I'm just afraid I'll like it too.