Learn From This: Love Actually

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Hey guys. It’s the day before Christmas and my schedule’s about to get crazy. Today we’re on the road with limited to no Internet access, which means that updates are going to be spotty. Rather than leave you hanging, I’m republishing an article about one of my favorite Christmas movies. Hope you enjoy and have a happy holiday. I’ll see ya’ll again on the 26th.


 

There’re very few Christmas movies that get watched at stately NerdLove manor. There’re only so many treacly impassioned peons to the Hallmark idea of the holidays that my constitution is willing to take, so I keep my holiday viewings to the Holy Trinity of Christmas Movies: Gremlins, Die Hard and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

I may need to start adding Love Actually to the mix.

Love Actually was a 2003 holiday film with an astoundingly (British) star-studded cast – Bill Nihy! Chiwetel Ejiofor! Colin Firth! Hugh Grant! Alan Rickman! Emma Thompson! A pre-zombie-apocalypse Andrew Lincoln! A whole bunch of people I don’t know at all but are probably really important in the UK – all about love and family and what it means over the holidays.

To be perfectly honest, I was prepared to hate it. I’ve mentioned how I feel about romantic “comedies” before: they’re mawkish and unrealistic, following characters who make unwise decisions and rewarding men for not growing or changing and generally sending all the wrong messages to the audience.

So imagine my surprise when not only was this movie genuinely sweet and realistic about relationships, but it also managed to avoid my rom-com pet peeves.

(Well, except for one.)

“Hope it was worth it son. Because you’re about to go to jail for a long, LONG time…”

This really is a movie that guys could learn a few things from. Things like…

There’s A Fine Line Between Clever and Creepy – Colin (Kriss Marshall), a would-be raconteur and wit with a… well, a face even a mother might have some issues with, prefers to try to woo women with his scintillating dialogue and snappy reparte. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t quite know where the line is when it comes to his jokes and trips over it with glorious abandon on a regular basis. Whether it’s calling the attractive secretary his future wife (she doesn’t appreciate it) or telling guests at a wedding that the hors d’oeuvres resemble slices of baby feet, it seems that the only thing his mouth is good for is sticking his foot in it. Some people are masters of using offensive humor effectively. Others are not. And if you don’t work on your social calibration very carefully, your attempts at being funny are going to lead to a lot of blank stares and awkward silences at best.

You Can Find Love Anywhere  John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are a couple of freelancers, a pair of working stiffs working at the same job. There’s an almost instant chemistry; they’re incredibly comfortable together almost immediately and they can chat with the sort of ease that usually comes with a life-long friendship.

Oh, and they’re both nude body doubles for a graphic sex scene in an upcoming movie.

Love is, literally, where you find it.

You’re Not Fooling Anyone – Mark’s (Andrew Lincoln) in love with Juliet (Keira Knightly). Sarah’s (Laura Linney) in love with Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). Sam (Thomas Sangster) is feeling the pangs of first love for one of his classmates. All of them think that they’ve managed to conceal their affections from the rest of the world… except everybody can see it. And they’re perfectly willing to call them out on it. In fact, in Sarah’s case, it’s become a running joke that everybody in her office knows… including the man she’s in love with. Mark manages to fool Juliet and her new husband by being cold and stand-off-ish, but the rest of his friends can tell, and his feelings are abundantly clear in his work.

Both Sarah and Mark might have saved themselves some stress and heartache if they hadn’t spent so much time concealing how they feel… and along those lines

You Need To Make A Move – Sarah has spent nearly three years pining for the handsome Karl1, spending long lonely nights alone and tending to her mentally ill brother. Nearly three years of silently suffering all of the pangs that come with unrequited love instead of coming forward and asking Karl out. Similarly, Sam is convinced that Joanna has no idea he’s even alive and is content to let himself agonize over her instead of trying to talk to her. If he had, he might have found out that she’s known who he was all this time and even thought he was pretty cute. Mark felt that he had lost the game before it had even started; Juliet was dating – now marrying –  his best friend in the world, which left her in forbidden territory. But instead of making his feelings known early and getting the awkwardness out of the way, he bottled them up and crippled what might have been an incredible friendship.

Communication Is More Than Words – I’ve mentioned before about how much of the way humans communicate is non-verbal , and nowhere in the movie is this more emphasized than between Jaime (Colin Firth) and Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz). Jaime speaks no Portuguese and Aurélia only knows individual words in English, but the way they behave around each other helps bridge the gap. Jaime – a writer – may not be able to use his words to convey who he is, but his actions do the all of the talking for him. It doesn’t take very much for Aurélia to learn that he’s a genuinely warm and caring man. Similarly, Aurélia finds him charming if a bit silly, and her attraction to him is telegraphed in her body language and the way she putters about helping him. Words can be pretty and they can do a lot of work for you, but it’s your behavior that will tell the real story.

  1. and his euro-mullet, what the hell? []

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