Love actually is all around us. Perhaps that's why writer/director Richard Curtis chose to create Love Actually, a romantic film that features the love of many couples instead of just one. It's a feel good movie that takes a while to gather steam, but the film's pay off is well worth the trouble of getting to know all of the characters.
At first, figuring out who's who is somewhat of a daunting task since there are ten storylines going on at once, and you need to separate one from the other to make sense of it all. Luckily, the opening scenes for each story are short but slowly become a bit longer and more involved, so by the middle of the film I found myself caught up in the lives unfolding on screen. I wasn't interested in the story of every couple, and with so many to choose from, I doubt it's even possible. But plenty of the characters and situations were enjoyable enough for me to become interested in finding out just how all the relationships would work out in the end.
I found myself enjoying two storylines in particular, both of which have a touch of humor to make them a bit more fun than the strict romance storylines of several of the others. I never really bought Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister, but his unlikely and funny relationship with Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) added a spark to the film. The most heartwarming story is the father/son relationship of Daniel (Liam Neeson) and Sam (Thomas Sangster), who at first try to cope with the death of the boy's mother but who then find a bond in discussing Sam's crush on a girl at his school.
That's not to say the other stories lack in anyway. Each plot is enjoyable in its own way, but with so many to choose from, a couple of stories stood out from the crowd. Surprisingly, I would've liked to have seen more of each couple just to get to know them all more so the respective endings had a little more meaning. But the film already runs at over two hours, so additional detail would most likely have only gotten in the way.
Luckily, most of the stories had a wonderful payoff at the end. A few ended too abruptly or with little fan fare, but the bulk of the plots are wrapped up in such a way that it's impossible not to smile. Nearly all romantic comedies end in similar manners, so you know, in essence, how the film is going to end before you even pop it into your DVD player. Love Actually isn't much different, but the inclusion of multiple happy endings is a clever spin that is rather refreshing.
Universal Home Video presents Love Actually 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. There's really nothing to complain about on this transfer, although I wouldn't exactly say the image blew me away either. The colors are bright and vibrant, and the detail is sharp throughout. Some of the more bright scenes are a tad too bright or washed out for me, and the detail doesn't always reach too far into the shadows. However, neither of these minor nit-picks ever undermine the overall quality of the presentation.
You're not going to be blown away by this soundtrack, but you're not really supposed to be. All that really needs to come through clearly are the voices and the music, both of which fit the bill perfectly. Voices are always clear and well centered, and the clarity of the music is a high point. Despite very minimal use of the rears channels and the woofer, Love Actually sounds great.
The film is also presented in Dolby Surround Spanish and French with subtitles in Spanish and French as well.
THE BONUS FEATURES
I was a bit surprised to find out that the DVD for Love Actually boasts a screen-specific commentary. I was even more surprised to find that I liked it. The commentary features director Richard Curtis and actors Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, and Thomas Sangster. This is not a film student's commentary, even though Curtis supplies several behind-the-scenes tidbits along the way. Instead, this voice over track is actually a bit of fun because the cast get along so well and joke around while discussing what's happening on screen.
The other great bonus feature are the many deleted scenes, all introduced by Curtis. There's over 30 minutes of footage here, most cut due to time constraints. Although I really don't need to see a three hour cut of the film, many of these cut scenes add detail and characterization to the film, which could've helped some of the thinner plot lines.
Also on tap are trailers for Along Came Polly and Peter Pan, Music of Love Actually with introductions by Curtis, and a music video for Kelly Clarkson's The Trouble With Love Is.
Love Actually starts slow but really pays off in the end. If you're interested in a romantic comedy that's slightly different than the normal Hollywood fare, this one's for you, especially since the DVD features some pretty nice special items and nice audio/video quality.