February 27, 2015

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 44

By Michael Richards

Love Actually, starring Hugh Grant, written and directed by Richard Curtis, music by Craig Armstrong. Working Title Films, Universal Pictures, 2003, 135 minutes.

Many American friends of Britain (and, we trust, vice versa) think the “Special Relationship” invented by Churchill tends nowadays to work in only one direction. I was reminded of this by an unlikely source, Hugh Grant, playing the British Prime Minister, in a syrupy, sentimental but amusing ten-year-old comedy. Variety described it as “doggedly cheery,” with “cheeky wit, impossibly attractive cast, and sure-handed professionalism.”

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Love Actually is a multiple romance about ten different love affairs going on simultaneously around Christmastime in London, with an accomplished cast: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, the mute comic), Emma Thompson (Shakespeare to Harry Potter). There’s also Liam Neeson, who for once isn’t killing the Ungodly but trying to be a good step-dad to his ten-year-old son, who is in love with an American 10-year-old. Quite a cast—not the least Martin Freeman and Joanna Page, who meet as body doubles for movie sex scenes. One says (while naked and simulating sex): “it is nice to have someone I can just chat to.” They fall for each other and she takes him home and invites him in. He says, “Are you sure this is all right? I’ve never done this before.”

In the midst of the melee, Prime Minister Grant receives the President of the United States (Billy Bob Thornton)—a real snarky piece of work, whom he finds trying to seduce Natalie (Martine McKutcheon), one of his aides. The President tells Hugh the U.S. has an agenda he plans to follow, whatever Britain thinks.

So…at the obligatory press conference in Number Ten, the President mouths the usual platitudes about the Special Relationship and the PM tells him off in public. Naturally, Churchill gets a mention. This is an entertaining scene for those of us who think the “special relationship” tends often to be a one-way street. Watch it on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1gf9Hml.

Of course Hugh also gets the girl. When she sends him a Christmas card professing her love, he calls for his Jaguar and heads for her street in Wandsworth (“the dodgy end”) where he goes door to door asking, “Does Natalie live here?” One resident asks, “Aren’t you the Prime Minister?” “Yes I am—sorry for all the cock-ups, my cabinet is absolute crap, we’ll try to do better next year.”

A tip of the hat in passing to Prime Minister David Cameron, who recently said much the same thing, though not with Hugh Grant’s panache: ttp://bit.ly/1gfafZw.

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