Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: R for nudity, sexuality and language
Run Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Every holiday season needs a cloying tonic of a film to offset the end of the year blues. Have I got a movie for you…
With heavy-handed platitudes but plenty of cheeky cheer, director Richard Curtis (who penned “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Notting Hill”, etc.) spins the concept of love into a giant cotton candy confection; small portions of passion melded into a mosaic of mush. Gay love, straight love, puppy love, new love and vanishing love; not a love stone left unturned.
ensemble cast re-enacts a six-degrees of separation blizzard of romances in
varying stages of maturity.
Newlyweds Juliet and Peter (Keira Knightly and Chiwetel Ejiofor) stumble through the thorny intricacies of freshman marriage, while Harry and Karen (Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson) navigate the treacherous waters of post-seven-year-itch (his) and a provocative secretary (also his) with more than stenography on her mind.
Sarah (Laura Linney) secretly pines for her sexy co-worker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) at the same time that Daniel (Liam Neeson) pines for his dead wife and struggles to forge a bond with his 10-year old stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster), who confesses to an undying love of his own. Redundant pop star Billy Mack (hilarious show-stopper Bill Nighy) strives for a last-gasp comeback by singing about love, holiday style (a la a crappy remake of “Love is All Around”). All this in the five weeks leading up to Christmas.
The critic in me can’t help but compile a laundry list of sins, from the spotty pacing to the snappy but irksome soundtrack consisting of a relentless string of contemporary hip-list tunes. “Love” falls short at the inevitable comparisons to the all-but-perfect “Four Weddings” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, relying on its fast-paced energy and rah-rah-go-love gusto to ride herd over the rough spots.
That said, the fact is I smiled throughout, charmed by the stories’ feel-good rhythms and the warm-and-fuzzy nature of love in all its quirky manifestations. The countdown to Christmas lends the relationships a pleasing sense of urgency; of something lovely and quixotic lurking just around the corner.