In this age of cynicism and the most popular television shows being ones about drug dealers or murder, I stand firmly in the corner of romance. I'm an avowed Romantic, the sort of person who knows exactly what movie you mean when you say, "That one where Kate Hudson fights with someone about her wedding!" or knows how to reference a chick flick where the entire premise is that on a leap year, a man can't say no when a woman proposes. I know the pause before the movie kiss, I know the desperate airport run, I know the standing underneath her window and shouting up at her, I know that the guy you like in the beginning isn't the one you're going to be with at the end.
Reader, I love Love Actually. It's the time of the year when everyone loves to hate on this--no, let me say it--absolutely perfect piece of romantic dramedy, especially since it had an anniversary recently too. I read all the take downs as well, and laughed a little, but in the end, it's my favourite movie of all time. And I've watched what people call "good movies" as well. Here is my impassioned defence. (There might be spoilers, but spoiler alerts don't hold when a movie is over ten years old.)
Fact One: Ensemble casts are amazing
Love Actually was the movie that started the intertwined romantic comedy around a big holiday, except no other movie did it as well. (Think Valentine's Day or New Year's Eve, both pretty bad, but the former slightly better, if you're looking for a recommendation.) It also started off the ensemble cast love drama, where you realise in the end that one person leads to another, but again, never so good. (Examples in this category include He's Just Not That Into You and What To Expect When You're Expecting.) Love Actually signals a lost time, when Christmas was less about the recession and more about snowflakes and fireplaces and nativity plays and the most we knew about the Brits was Mr Bean (in the movie!) and Hugh Grant (also in the movie!). Actually, the cast contained someone for everyone: the Bend It Like Beckham fans had Keira Knightley with the very first duck face happening on screen, the Pride And Prejudice fans got to see Colin Firth being straightlaced once more. Harry Potter stalwarts saw Alan Rickman being a douchebag and justifying his Snape-like status in the world. What's not to love? It's like going to a multi-cuisine restaurant on a night you feel like pizza and your partner feels like Lebanese. It's like a multi-cuisine restaurant where both the pizza and the Lebanese are really good.
Fact Two: It's full of really fun musical sequences
From the beginning, where Bill Nighy is trying to turn Love Is All Around into Christmas Is All Around, to Keira Knightley's wedding where an orchestra suddenly pops up to play All You Need Is Love, this movie is basically a walking music video. In a good way. Let he who did not spontaneously applaud when the little girl knocks All I Want For Christmas out of the park cast the first stone. Let she who did not giggle at Hugh Grant as Prime Minister dancing to Jump! For Your Love talk about how movies shouldn't have music in them. For me, it was my first association with Joni Mitchell, and oh, Emma Thompson's face as she listens to Both Sides Now.
Fact Three: All of the romances are really...well...romantic
This is where Love Actually gets its biggest criticism; that the romances aren't true to life. First of all: hello, who wants to see true-to-life romance, because that is boring. Second of all: the romances may start off unlikely, but as they go on, you see them develop into something beautiful. Let's take the successful romances: those of Colin Firth and his Portugese maid, Hugh Grant and his aide, and Martin Freeman and his co-body double on a porn set. You find out, as each romance unfolds, that the two have a lot more in common than you actually thought. Colin Firth may not speak the same language as his housekeeper, but through subtitles, you learn they're saying exactly the same thing. Cue movie montage of Firth desperately studying Portugese, running to find her and proposing marriage all in a few weeks, and you have the kind of love story you actually want to watch as opposed to girl meets boy at a party and falls in love. (A lot of people have also said this sort of romance is unfeminist and actually sexual harassment in the workplace, but those issues are things you put aside in your head along with why Julia Roberts needed to be a prostitute in order to fall in love with Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.)
Fact Four: A lot of this movie is actually just about affirmation, not romance
This is perhaps one of the last few successful movies that did the whole cycle of humiliation to triumph before it became cool to show it in a slow moving arc. Take Bill Nighy and his long suffering manager, and how Bill Nighy is a douchebag and then he's less of a douchebag because he realises the only person who loves him is his manager. Take the guy who is going off to America to meet American girls, and how his friend (and you, the audience) thinks he's going to fail but he meets January Jones and a gang of stunning women who thinks he is sexy. Take the one story everyone quibbles about: where Keira Knightley's husband's best friend is secretly in love with her and tells her about it through flashcards. In the end, she gives him a pity-kiss and he says, "Enough!" and moves on with his life. Moves on with his life! Tell me another movie where someone moves on from their great love without drama and suicide.
In conclusion, shut out your judge-y friends or your boyfriend who is moaning about having to watch this movie again for the hundreth time for the love of God, and make yourself some popcorn. You'll be singing along to God Only Knows before you know it.
And hey, you know what? Airports are--in fact--totally romantic.