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: Mark, Juliet, and Peter
Which Story Is This? Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Juliet (Keira Knightley) get married in a lovely ceremony. Peter asks Mark (Andrew Lincoln), his best man, to try to be friendly with Juliet, who he has apparently been cold around. Later, Juliet visits Mark because the official videographer has made a hash of the wedding video, and she saw him filming his own material on the night. She watches it and discovers that it’s all footage of her; Mark, it turns out, has been in love with her all this time and has only pretended not to like her to avoid coming between her and his best friend. Later, Mark secretly visits Juliet to tell her that he loves her but vows to end his fixation on her.
Problematic Content: 3/5. Well, the story begins with a “ha-ha, trans panic!” joke involving prostitutes to really get things off on the wrong foot. Also, it feels a bit uncomfortable to me that the one black character involved in a love story is just the completely unaware side of a love triangle. Waste of Chiwetel Ejiofor, I don’t think that’ll be a controversial statement.
Character Issues: 5/5. Look, gang, we like to have fun here about how big romantic gestures in romcoms would be interpreted in the real world as stalking or otherwise weird behavior. If Colin Firth’s character were your friend, and upon his return from a vacation told you that he had fallen in love with his Portugese housekeeper even though they couldn’t talk to each other, so he’s going to learn Portuguese in the next couple weeks and then fly back to her and propose to her in the middle of her shift at work…you would tell him to maybe sleep on it and really work through all the angles, right? But in the moment of the movie at least, you are more likely to tolerate it because you’ve accepted that the romcom universe behaves differently from ours.
However, Mark, here…Mark is supposed to be a man tragically torn between his romantic love for a woman and his platonic love for his friend. While we probably are not supposed to want him to break up what appears to be a happy young marriage between Juliet and Peter, we are at least supposed to feel for the guy. He gets a Dido song! He walks around dejected and frustrated and a Dido song is playing to accompany his unspoken turmoil! This man is meant to be a protagonist.
But even in the romcom universe, his behavior is just too weird and creepy. He’s fallen in love with his best friend’s girl: okay, you know, it must happen. He is rude and short with her as a defense mechanism: possibly there’s a better way to handle that, but he’s trying to preserve the basic harmony. He films hours of footage of just her at her wedding: yes, now I’m uncomfortable, that is creepy and obsessive.
But the really skin-crawling thing that puts him over the top is that he edited the fucking video! He’s not just fast forwarding through hours of raw footage, crying to himself in the dark; he took the time to make himself a goddamn highlight reel. I can’t see this as anything else but a dark obsession, and I genuinely worry that he could be dangerous.
Frustrating Execution: 779/5. It amazes me that this story exists, it really does. Richard Curtis had the idea and didn’t say, “Nope, don’t write that.” He wrote the screenplay and didn’t say, “Nope, delete that.” He showed it, presumably, to producers and studio people who didn’t say, “Nope, I’m not giving you money to shoot that.” He showed it to the actors who didn’t say, “Nope, I don’t think I can play that.” When it was done it went to an editor who didn’t say, “Nope, we need to cut this.” It went to the score’s composer who didn’t say, “Nope, I can only write a terrifying Bernard Hermann-style string accompaniment for this.” So many people could have stopped this from happening, and I legitimately can’t believe that no one ever put their foot down. Isn’t there someone credited as a “script supervisor”? Couldn’t they have supervised this story into the garbage?
Even if you take everything up to the last scene, Keira Knightley opens the door and sees Walking Dead guy with his cue cards telling her to be quiet and doesn’t flip her shit? She watches him go through his little passive-aggressive “Subterranean Homesick Blues” act of attempting to gain closure. (He’s like, “Okay, I’ll leave you alone, BUT just know that ‘my wasted heart will love you’ because I guess I want to make you feel bad as possible about this.”) Let us give Juliet the benefit of the doubt and attribute this to terror and shock. But he leaves…he leaves…and you follow him out, look him in the eyes, and give him a kiss. Why are you compelled to do this? Do you think responding to his weird confession of love by kissing him is going to help things? “You know what really cures obsession, is to give the guy a moment of spontaneous and unbidden physical intimacy.”
And then she runs away and presumably never tells her husband. I’m not going to set myself up as a relationship expert, but if your spouse’s best friend had a secret video that reveals they were secretly in love with you all along, and you don’t tell your spouse, “Hey, here’s something you don’t know about ________,” I am going to consider this a lie of omission and wonder if you have an ulterior motive behind not exposing this fact. I get, Juliet, that you don’t want to come between your husband and his best friend. But you should also consider whether you want to get murdered, because I honestly don’t think you can consider that entirely off the table given everything that happens.
Comedy and Charm: 0/5. Curtis was too busy writing a terrifying manifesto on cue cards that he forgot to write jokes. The only saving grace of his story is that—NOCAMB and all—but in my younger days, Keira Knightley saying the words “all blue and wibbly” set my heart aflutter.1
Drama and Poignancy: 0/5. Even the dramatic possibilities are clumsily executed here. Juliet realizes about the pictures in the video, “They’re all of me.” And Mark’s totally unnatural and stilted reply is: “Yeah. Yes. Yes.” And then at the end, he says out loud to himself in the middle of the street: “Enough. Enough now.” Skillfully fucking executed!
Does It Make You Believe in the Power of Love? 0/5. I don’t believe in anything anymore.
GUILTY. Jesus fucking Christ.