28 December 2019 00:44
For me, Richard Curtis' 2003 film Love Actually is half "guilty pleasure with twinkles and earned fuzzies" and half "cluttered product-of-its-time with stand-out problematics." 16 years after its theatrical premiere, Love Actually represents cheesy holiday cheer for some and eye-rolling for those who don't find romantic comedy their thing. It boasts a pageant of celebrities: Martine McCutcheon, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Lincoln. For those who haven't seen the film, don't worry – the opening number "Is Love Actually…" exposits the gist: "It's a montage movie with celebrities [and] rotten tomatoes score of 63." The snappy book and lyrics are penned by Bob and Tobly McSmith, the pair responsible for musicalized parodies like The Office!, Friends!, and Full House the Musical!. He is friends with Emma Thompson (how?), who is there with her poshness and she's married to Alan Rickman… Actually, she's married to Severus Snape of Harry Potter. The musical checks off the parodic beats, with shout-out to Taken, Sling Blade, and Walking Dead, pointing out that Kiera Knightley was 18-years-old and playing a bride, Freudian gags about romantic attraction, baffling questions (again, so how did Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson's characters became friends?), poking fun at the film's hokier dialogue, Emma Thompson and Joni Mitchell having a fever-dream duet, a reenactment of the infamous cue-cards scene, and a special appearance by Tiny Tim. Essential festive viewing, Love Actually is easily the starriest Christmas film out there boasting screen legends such as Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson and Colin Firth.
Rom-com favourite Hugh Grant played David, the British Prime Minister who fell for Martine McCutcheon and blessed Downing Street with his dance moves, a clip which still does the online rounds on Youtube or in gif form. Other than starring in the Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Grant had a quiet couple of years after Love Actually, but has recently appeared in Paddington 2, the critically-acclaimed A Very English Scandal and can soon be seen in Guy Ritchie's The Gentleman. Hugh, of course, appeared in Red Nose Day Actually in 2017, but also One Red Nose Day and a Wedding earlier this year, a short sequel to another of his Richard Curtis collaborations Four Weddings and a Funeral. Liam Neeson played Daniel, a grieving widow who encouraged the then-young Thomas Brodie-Sangster to pursue his American classmate crush through Heathrow airport in true rom-com fashion. After Love Actually, Neeson appeared in Batman Begins and voiced Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia films, but his image forever changed after surprise hit Taken turned him into a mature action hero, and he would go on to appear in the Taken sequels, The Grey and Clash of the Titans.
After Love Actually, Firth starred in several crowd-pleasers such as Nanny McPhee and Mamma Mia!, before earning awards recognition for A Single Man and an Oscar for The King's Speech. He is known these days for playing spy Harry Hart in the Kingsman films, and also recently starred in Mary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia! After Love Actually, Thompson popped up in the Harry Potter films as Professor Trelawney, wrote and starred in the Nanny McPhee movies and appeared in Bridget Jones's Baby. She was most recently seen in BBC drama Years and Years, reuniting with Liam Neeson in Men in Black: International and wrote the screenplay for fellow festive film Last Christmas. The following year Linney reunited with Liam Neeson in Kinsey, and would go on to star in films such as The Savages, Arthur Christmas and Sully. Rickman, of course, continued to play Severus Snape in all the Harry Potter films, appeared in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd adaptation and voiced Absolem the caterpillar in the Alice in Wonderland films. Knightley played the appropriately-named Juliet, the recipient of Andrew Lincoln's affection in the famous cue card scene that was recently recreated by Boris Johnson. Knightley found stardom around the time Love Actually came out by appearing in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, as well as period dramas such as Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina. McCutcheon was tipped for Hollywood stardom after appearing in Love Actually, but alas it was not to be. She also recreated Love Actually's famous cue card scene in an advert for Uber Eats this year. Comedy legend Atkinson has returned to some of his most iconic characters since Love Actually came out, playing Mr Bean one last time in Mr Bean's Holiday and the title character in the Johnny English films. Martin Freeman played John, the professional stand-in happy to simulate erotic scenes with co-worker Judy but too shy to talk to her off set. Martin Freeman was coming fresh off his role in The Office when he was cast in Love Actually, relatively unknown at the time. He, of course, found fame playing long-suffering John Watson in Sherlock, and has since starred as Bilbo Baggins himself in The Hobbit Films and Everet Ross in Black Panther. Andrew Lincoln's Mark was of course the man behind the now-iconic cue card scene, parodied by everyone from Boris Johnson to Martine McCutcheon this year alone. He can next be seen in drama Penguin Bloom next year, as well as the untitled Walking Dead spin-off film. Ejiofor has had a meteoric rise to fame since Love Actually, starring in The Martian, 2012, and Doctor Strange, as well as receiving an Oscar nomination for his lead performance in 12 Years A Slave. He can be seen in two big Disney films this year, voicing Scar in The Lion King remake and playing Conall in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. She looks a little older these days, but Olivia Olson actually played Joanna, the American schoolchild with the voice of an angel who young Sam falls for. After some spots of public singing, Olson had a quiet couple of years after Love Actually. Joanna Page played Judy, the professional stand-in spending much of the film simulating erotic scenes with Martin Freeman's character, only for the two to pursue a genuine relationship together. She also starred in the first Resident Evil film, and appeared in the critically acclaimed Second World War drama The Book thief in 2013. Most of her career post-Love Actually, however, has been in films from her home country of Germany, including The Door and Hilde. Love Actually is available for Prime subscribers to stream on Amazon.