Blurb: RARELY HAS THE POWER OF CINEMA BEEN FELT BY SO MANY, IN SUCH OPPOSING WAYS…
“Love Actually dulls the critical senses, making those susceptible to its hallucinogenic powers think they’ve seen a funny, warm-hearted, romantic film about the many complex manifestations of love. Colourful Narcotics. A perfect description of a bafflingly popular film.”
By any reasonable measurement, Love Actually is a bad movie. There are plenty of bad movies out there, but what gets under Gary Raymond’s skin here is that it seems to have tricked so many people into thinking it’s a good movie. In this hilarious, scene-by-scene analysis of the Christmas monolith that is Love Actually, Gary Raymond takes us through a suffocating quagmire of badly drawn characters, nonsensical plotlines, and open bigotry, to a climax of ill-conceived schmaltz.
How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) is the definitive case against a terrible movie. With a foreword by Lisa Smithstead.
I have absolutely no issue at all with the main premise of this book, that the beloved romcom Love Actually is actually [whispers] not very good. I was baffled the first time I watched the film, as I just didn’t get its appeal. I can’t say I disliked it, but I didn’t LOVE it the way so many seemed to. I just thought it was alright. Not very good.
That confessed, I looked forward with great anticipation to having my vague antipathy validated and evidenced by Gary Raymond – with his professional critic’s hat on. I wasn’t disappointed either (unlike when I watched the film!).
Gary Raymond takes us scene by very short scene through the whole film, snarkily analysing the many flaws with plot, characters and emotional manipulation in a thoroughly entertaining way. How very short each segment is perfectly illustrates one of the problems I had with the film – you flick from one snippet of character interaction to another, without ever really getting to know any of them properly. It’s like trying to form a deep and lasting emotional connection with someone in a speed dating session.
That’s not to say that the author completely rips the film apart. He does acknowledge that it has a few ‘moments’. Even a romance-Grinch like myself can enjoy watching Hugh Grant ‘Jump’ around No. 10! And I don’t agree with Raymond on every point he makes. For example, other than said moment of joyous silliness, I actually quite enjoyed John and Judy’s gentle pornographic flirtation, while Raymond would happily consign it to the cutting room floor. But I admit that has little to do with any merit to the one-joke dead horse they flog, or their puddle-deep characterisation, and everything to do with my personal enjoyment in watching Martin Freeman be terribly, awkwardly British at every possible opportunity (see Sherlock and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for further examples of this.)
So, my personal fetishes aside, Gary Raymond accurately and very humorously explains exactly why Love Actually is not actually a good film (or particularly about ‘love’) at all and is, instead, a ‘colourful narcotic’ designed to give people the warm and fuzzies whilst not very subtly pushing some pretty unloving – even unpleasant – messages about women, fat people (especially women), disabled people, infidelity, the grieving, and women again (and again).
I can enjoy reading Gary Raymond’s critical analysis of the film over and over again, and am grateful to him for taking the time and energy to perform and present that analysis for me in book format, so I can better explain my own reaction to the film without ever needing to watch it again. If I want to see Hugh Grant dancing to ‘Jump’, I can always just watch the Girls Aloud music video!
People love love love Love Actually. But to love it, one must suspend all critical faculties, surely? Toss to the wind any sensitivities about entire groups of society that society would do better to be sensitive about? Or have I misunderstood something about it? Have I been overthinking it? Or underthinking it? Or thinking about it in the wrong way? Perhaps now, with a pen and notebook in hand, I am better equipped to understand its allure. Now that I have ten years as a critic under my belt, and undoubtedly a more compassionate approach to other people’s baffling admirations than I admittedly might have had when the film came out and I was twenty-four, I think I can give Love Actually something better than the benefit of the doubt: I’m going to give it my undivided attention.– Gary Raymond, How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics)
Don’t forget to check out the other blog stops on the tour for more great reviews and content (see the poster below for details)!