Ah, Christmas. It's time to trim the tree, spread cheer, and have a lively debate about whether or not Love Actually is the best Christmas movie. Every year debate about the movie's merits rages, but it's a truth universally acknowledged that, while the film has its faults, it still brings joy and happiness to millions during the Christmas season. There are so many iconic moments—Andrew Lincoln with the poster boards, Emma Thompson crying to "Both Sides Now"—that if you're willing to pick-and-choose, there is actually (see what I did there?) something in this movie for everyone, much like the holiday season! We've broken down the film, romantic plotline by romantic plotline, and determined which one was best, in case you're in the mood to do some fast-forwarding this holiday season.
Yes, technically Rowan Atkinson's character in the movie has his own arc and his own storyline. According to director Richard Curtis, the original plan for Atkinson's irritatingly slow gift-wrapper/airport distraction was to be in the form of a Christmas Angel, but that wound up being cut from the final script. His last place placement is mostly due to the fact that I never would have considered him one of the core storylines! But, Atkinson is a comic legend, and his character is key to the film's success. Moving right along...
Uh, what did the state of Wisconsin do to deserve such a wretched plotline? It's entirely sexist and rooted in some really horrible perceptions—American girls are easy? What?—and, thankfully, only takes up a little bit of the film. Colin appears to be a serial sexual harasser, so it's no surprise he can't get a date, and the audience is never given a reason to root for him and his American sexual conquests. It's also the least-connected plotline to the general story, so this one's a pass. Even if it did give us one of the funniest lines of the entire movie: "Colin, you're a lonely, ugly asshole. And you must accept it."
None, I repeat, NONE of this plotline makes any kind of sense. There's a point at Juliet and Peter's wedding in which Laura Linney's character asks Mark if he's in love with Peter. That would be a far more intriguing and interesting plotline than the one we get. Instead we get this—the most hopeless of all the romantic plotlines (and this is a movie where a woman worries her husband is having an affair!). Mark does all of these grand romantic gestures for his best friend's wedding, only to reveal to his best friend's new bride that he's been in love with her forever and ever and ever and she's supposed to keep that a secret from her new husband? And he does all of this with cue cards? It's abhorrently selfish. Naw, this plotline is emotionally manipulative in the grossest kind of way.
One of two platonic love plots in Love Actually, Billy Mack and Joe is only ranked so low because of the low stakes. The stakes are so low you can play limbo with them. What does Billy Mack want for Christmas? A number one hit single, and he understands that while he may put out dreckitude songs, all publicity is good publicity. So he goes on a "My Song Sucks" press tour, much to his manager Joe's chagrin. But—and this is a spoiler—after reaching number one despite all of his attempts not to be, Billy comes to realize that Christmas is about spending time with people you love. And yes, that means your much-maligned manager. This is definitely a happily ever after, even if it is unconventional!
Colin Firth can do no wrong in my book, but man, I couldn't be bothered to find a care to give about Jamie and Aurélia's love story. I totally understand the premise: After finding his girlfriend in bed with his brother, Jamie goes to be alone in a cabin and mope. There, he meets Aurélia, but here's the kicker: they don't speak the same language! The two fall in love, even though they've never had a complete conversation. It's cute and everything ("Yes, is be my answer"), but I don't know if I want to know how this relationship turned out.
Easily Love Actually's purest love story, John and Just Judy place smack-dab in the middle of this list because they're too cute for words, and the shy young love is so earnest you might melt, but also, what...kind of porn movie has stand-ins? It loses a few points in the reality category for that.
Not to be dramatic or anything, but this is the most heartbreaking plotline to ever exist on film. Just tear my heart into pieces, throw them on the floor, stomp on them, and leave me be. In a film about Christmas, we're reminded that while a crush can be fun, it's better to take care of your family members (which, okay, fair) even if it means leaving your hot hunky long-time crush at your apartment after the company holiday party. This one...hurts.
I'm not quite sure how David ranks as the Prime Minister, considering he turns on an ally after said ally hits on his crush (sounds prime for an international incident). But this plotline has everything you'll need from a romantic comedy: a meet-cute (Natalie can't stop swearing), a courtship (their sweet and awkward flirtations), a falling out, a note, and ending with a kiss (behind a curtain, that would fall precisely in time for them to get caught!). Martine McCutcheon is so freaking cute as Natalie, it'll make you want to work for the government.
Emma Thompson's delivery of the line, "Yes, but you've also made a fool out of me, and you've made the life I lead foolish, too," is enough to turn me into an empty vessel, crying on the floor of my bathroom. If you can listen to "Both Sides Now" after watching this movie and hold it together, more power to you. This plot is easily the most emotionally nuanced of all ten of the movie's plots, but it's also the most depressing. It touches on emotional affairs, the suspicion your partner is cheating, and how to go on when you and your partner love each other, but are maybe not be in love with each other anymore. Yes, the characterization of Mia is a little thin and she mostly exists as a foil to their relationship, but I'm also glad some clichéd "revenge against the other woman" scenario didn't occur here. Nah, we just get excellent performances from both Thompson and the late Rickman, and a plotline with a beginning, middle, and end. We're glad Rowan Atkinson struggled to get your present wrapped, Harry.
YES. YES. YESSSSSSS. This is the BEST one because it has pretty much everything: puppy love, a Mariah Carey song, Liam Neeson using his particular set of skills to help his stepson find love. The characters have a real arc, beginning with Daniel and Sam mourning the loss of Sam's mother with a level of self-awareness one only has when they've been anticipating something awful. But Sam's not sad because he lost his mom—no, he's sad because he's got a crush on classmate Joanna, and as we all can attest, there's nothing worse than "the total agony of being in love." To cope, the stepdad-and-son pair watch Titanic, Sam takes up the drums, and the whole thing culminates in a rendition of "All I Want For Christmas Is You," involving the shadiest finger-point of all time. Sam runs through the airport after his lady-love, and Daniel gets his groove back in the form of Carol, who looks a whole lot like his celebrity crush, Claudia Schiffer (because it is Claudia Schiffer. Hollywood!) You'll never be able to hear the Bay City Rollers in the same way.
Merry Christmas everyone!
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