Love, ActuallyComplications Ensue
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Saturday, January 07, 2012

We watched Richard Curtis's 2003 directorial debut LOVE, ACTUALLY again. It is really a lovely movie. There are quite a bunch of things that are incredible about the movie. It feels like an indie ensemble piece, but it has a cast of stars not just in the big roles -- Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson -- but all the way down to the cameos -- Billy Bob Thornton has about 5 minutes, and Denise Richards about 15 seconds of screen time, while Claudia Schiffer shows up in two scenes, once just in the background. And the music budget must have been killer. So it is sort of a big movie masquerading as a small movie.

So it's partly a lesson in how you make your first movie: you pull in a million favors. Curtis wrote Hugh Grant's big break, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. He wrote much of the Mr. Bean movies and TV, and there's Rowan Atkinson. The roles are all crisply written, a joy for an actor... and no doubt written for the actors in question.

It's also a lesson in what you can get away with as a screenwriter. Look at some of the little plotholes. Colin Firth writes his novel on a typewriter, and doesn't have a copy. Half of it blows into a pond. Just about when you're thinking, "Who still writes on a typewriter? And doesn't make copies?" Colin Firth's Portuguese housekeeper is saying, "What kind of idiot doesn't make a copy?" And when, later, he proposes, although he's never even had a conversation with her -- well, Lisa was saying, "He's going to marry her? He barely knows her." And the first words out of his mouth are, "I know it's kind of crazy to propose but..." And then he explains why.

Both of these are classic cases of "hanging a lantern" on a plothole. If you play up a plothole big enough, it becomes a character point. So long as it is the character and not the plot that is irrational, you're okay.

Likewise, the movie is a good example of how elastic time can be when you're cutting between multiple stories. This is the first time I noticed that Liam Neeson's kid learns how to play drums in less than two weeks. But you see him play drums (actually you only hear him), and then you go see three or four other stories move forward, and then you come back and he's playing better. It feels like enough time has elapsed for a kid to learn to play drums -- so long as you don't think about it.

Of course, it's mostly just a lovely movie, that always makes me happy when I watch it. But look at it closely, and you'll see quite a crafty screenwriter at work.



I also enjoyed Love, Actually. Although I will admit that I have never seen either Valentines Day or New Year's Eve, I'm guessing they both wanted to be Love, Actually. From what I gathered, they failed miserably.

By Blogger Tim W., at 2:54 PM  

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