Do You Love Love, Actually?

Ah, it’s that time of year again when love is in the air, Christmas is all around, preteens cover Mariah Carey and that guy from The Walking Dead declares his undying love for his best friend’s wife with what you either consider a grand romantic gesture or the behavior of a stalker in the movie, Love, Actually.

Since Love, Actually was released to mixed reviews in 2003, it’s become a holiday favourite for many romance fans (it headed our Top Holiday Movies list here last year). We talked to some Harlequin editors to get their post- #MeToo take on Love, Actually. Below, we hear from Julia Williams, Lucy Gough, Patience Bloom, Allison Lyons, Katie Gowrie, Deirdre McCluskey, and an Anonymous Editor!

Patience: I still love Love, Actually because the characters are so loveable. But I have always had trouble with how the central female characters had these more submissive, sometimes negative and downtrodden positions in life: betrayed wife, sister who had to care for brother, the poor, promiscuous American girls…

Lucy: That storyline was so ridiculous! I keep expecting it to be a dream sequence or something. I also find it really annoying how the American girls are just bimbo props rather than actual characters!

Patience: The men are much more powerful: The aging rock star, the Prime Minister, Colin Firth is a popular thriller writer, Alan Rickman is the boss.

Katie: I agree, Patience, I think aspects of Love, Actually are problematic (I never really loved that Colin Firth storyline) but this movie is a guilty pleasure of mine!! I think it’s the lovable all-star cast – I just love seeing them all together with Christmas as a backdrop. 🙂

Julia: I love Colin Firth’s storyline! I don’t really care that they don’t understand one another. And I love all the misinterpretations. Also, the hunk gets the less conventionally pretty heroine. I’m all for that!

Personally, if I were Emma Thompson, I’d have kicked Alan Rickman out after Christmas. I DON’T EVEN CARE THAT IT’S ALAN RICKMAN. I would also have liked to have seen the PA’s [Mia] motivation. Why did she come on to him? To get a promotion? Because she fancied him? She likes playing with fire? Who does that without very good reason?

Lucy: Emma Thompson is amazing in this (and everything). Alan Rickman’s character is awful and really annoys me at the end when he calls himself a classic fool – like it wasn’t really his fault! Also, he should have just told Mia to knock off the intense office flirting when she started. Imagine those scenes with a gay man playing the PA role or swapped between a female boss and male PA– how quickly would he have been in HR!

Allison: I have many thoughts about this movie. First of all, I love it and watch it every year. I live for the moment Hugh Grant dances to Jump (For Your Love), although it’s much too short.

I also love when he finally realizes what an idiot he’s been and goes to find the woman he loves and meets her entire family. But I HATE that they all consider her fat. I mean, seriously?? I also hate that the US President hits on her. What a lout. Though I guess it was preparing us for what was to come like 13 years later!

Lucy: I think Martine McCutcheon’s character is shamed a lot because of her size – which isn’t even that big! It also seems slightly stupid that we’re supposed to buy into Colin luring four girls into bed on the strength of his UK accent but a man couldn’t possibly fall in love with anyone bigger than a size 12! Also, the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) “redistributing her” after the American president harasses her is really bad! And the fact that she apologises in the Christmas card when it wasn’t her fault is ridiculous! This totally could’ve ended with a lawsuit rather than a love scene!

Julia: I didn’t have a problem with Martine McCutcheon being referred to as fat (when she really isn’t). Having NEVER seen a film up until then when the dashing hero goes for the rather plumper girl than the skinny blonde model, I remember rather cheering at that! And I still like it, because Martine McCutcheon’s character is so engaging and it is SOOOO sweet that she ends up with Hugh Grant.

Deirdre: It does seem a textbook case of wrongful dismissal to me! But I agree that both Martine McCutcheon and Hugh Grant are so charming, I glossed over that the first several times I watched the movie and just rolled with the Cinderella plotline. But what about the Andrew Lincoln/Keira Knightley storyline? So many people find that one totally romantic.

Julia: When I saw the film, I went “Eww” at the Andrew Lincoln stalking Keira Knightley bit.

Lucy: I agree with Julia, this is super creepy – especially the wedding video of just her face– what was he planning on doing with that!!!

Julia: I feel desperately sorry for Laura Linney (Sarah). Karl is an arse of the highest order.

Allison: The fact that Laura Linney will never have an HEA is heartbreaking. But the things we do for love of family are very realistic here.

Lucy: Karl is AWFUL – it upsets me that they made him so terrible when Colin has a stupid fake happy ending but Sarah doesn’t! And Karl is sort of painted as this tragic romantic hero – SO ANNOYING.

Deirdre: I think the movie is really uneven. But the best parts are soooo good! I could watch Bill Nighy in absolutely anything.

Julia: Bill Nighy is TOTALLY THE BESSSSSSST. I love the moment when he realises his agent is the love of his life.

Lucy: And I like the way that storyline draws attention to the fact that not all love is romantic.

Katie: Agreed! I found this one the most touching ending of all the stories, actually.

Julia: I absolutely love the scene when Thomas Sangster chases after Olivia Olson at the airport.

Patience: The little boy running into Liam Neeson’s arms at the end ALWAYS makes me cry.

Deirdre: So many good and bad things about the movie. I agree with Katie that it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. Although, I used to watch it every year and now I just want to fast-forward through the uncomfortable bits and watch the highlights. There are definitely many missed opportunities to see some fully fleshed-out female characters with all those wonderful actors.

Julia: I still really enjoy it. My problem with it from day one was there are too many characters and story lines to get wholly invested in it. But the bits I liked when it came out, I still like. I don’t really find too much problematic now, because I think we read far too much into things these days, that were never intended and the audience at the time weren’t offended by. The internet has totally destroyed debate. Everything is binary now. There is no room for nuanced discussion. Drives me crazy.

Lucy: Despite some of it enraging me I still like it and I’ll probably still watch it again this Christmas. I think that has a lot to do with liking it when it came out (I was 17 and it seemed super romantic at the time!) and only noticing problems with it later on. I’m not sure I’d be as forgiving if it came out now. And I think this is true of a lot of stuff that I used to love and now has glaring problems – Friends, for example.

Anonymous Editor: I hate it. It’s beyond sexist, none of the individual couples gets a sufficiently developed story, and why don’t we get the end of the Keira Knightley romance?

Patience: I still love the movie and watch it often. And I would clean Colin Firth’s house any day.

Now I want to watch it again…

How much do you love Love, Actually? Let us know in the comments!