Love Actually/Hate Actually #4: Colin/America

In Love Actually/Hate Actually, Great Boos Up discusses each story in the movie and puts it on trial in an attempt to grapple with his enjoyment of the movie versus his own acknowledgement of its problems.

The Defendants: Colin and the various women of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Which Story Is This? Colin (Kris Marshall), tired of striking out with women in Britain, decides that American girls might perceive him as cute and sophisticated due to his accent. It turns out they do: in a bar in Milwaukee, he meets three women (Ivana Miličević, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert) who take him to their place and…I guess they have a four-way? Then Shannon Elizabeth shows up as well.

THE PROSECUTION

Problematic Content: 1/5. When I sat down to think about it, I don’t think this is as problematic as its “Guy hopes to bone his way across the USA” premise might lead you to believe. He is a guy looking to leverage his accent to have sex with hot girls. The hot girls are looking to have sex with Colin because of his accent. Nobody is really getting exploited or deceived here, are they? I think this is…okay, actually?

Character Issues: 5/5. UGH COLIN. I mean, it is intentional that Colin be an abrasive, obnoxious boor, but he’s not abrasive or obnoxious or boorish in a compelling way. He is playing a very realistic version of a tiresome dude, and it isn’t actually entertaining.

Frustrating Execution: 2/5. I think having a lead character that you don’t particularly want to root for spills over into this, but the execution isn’t so bad. However, as a Wisconsinite, I must regretfully point out the following inaccuracies with the film’s portrayal of Milwaukee:

  • Milwaukee’s airport is called Mitchell International and not just “Milwaukee International.”
  • Nobody seems to have a Sconnie accent.
  • No bar in Milwaukee is quiet enough to have a conversation in which you can demonstrate the novel way you say “bottle” and “straw.”
  • The bar has a Budweiser sign. This is a goddamn Miller town.

THE DEFENSE

Comedy and Charm: 2/5. Actually, though, I appreciate how the story is set up. A guy thinks moving to America will solve all his problems. You are conditioned by so many other movies to assume that that he will go to America and be disappointed and return to Britain, defeated but wiser for the experience, determined to make change happen from within. In fact, the first time I saw the movie and he said he was specifically planning to go to Wisconsin, I assumed what would happen is he’d go to a bar and it would be all middle-aged ladies in Packers sweatshirts drinking brandy old fashioneds. But the actual gag is, Colin is 100% correct, his plan is a stunning success, and he gets exactly what he wanted. That’s a solid swerve, and I respect it.

But the humor really only works at the conceptual, intellectual level precisely because there is no conflict to drive the jokes. So it actually isn’t very funny in practice. I don’t mean to specifically slam Kris Marshall, who for all I know may be a wonderful actor in other things, but I wonder if someone else might have found a way to do Colin in a way that wrung more humor out of it.

Drama and Poignancy: 0/5. By design, though.

Does It Make You Believe in the Power of Love? 2/5. Sometimes a change in scenery can actually bring about the changes you want to see in your life; that’s nice to hear once in a while. And, everybody is happy and having consensual sex for superficial but mutually superficial reasons. But frankly, I do not particularly care whether Colin is happy or not.

THE VERDICT

GUILTY. A kind of funny idea without any good jokes and with an unappealing lead.