Love Actually Is Unhinged Lunacy. Here Are Its Most Heartwarming Vignettes. By Dish Stanley

Love Actually Is Unhinged Lunacy. Here Are Its Most Heartwarming Vignettes. By Dish Stanley

. 6 min read

Love Actually Is Unhinged Lunacy. Here Are Its Most Heartwarming Vignettes. By Dish Stanley

Yes, Love Actually is unhinged lunacy. But I am long past defending my fierce loyalty to this hot holiday mess. If you love it, as I do, you love it unconditionally because, let’s be honest, that’s the only way one could. And if you damn it for its stock characters, predictable story lines, backward depictions (and on and on) (which criticisms are rationally argued by Katy Harrington in I Rewatched Love Actually and It’s Still the Worst)) there’s nothing I could say to change your mind. You might be right. In fact, having just rewatched it for the 20th time (that’s right, once a year for 20 years), I’m sure you’re right. And yet, I love it. I love it precisely because it‘s ridiculous and absurd and outrageously fun, not despite it. I need ridiculous, absurd, outrageous fun in my life. It makes me feel happy and alive and perhaps silly, and I particularly need all that during the holidays.

At any rate, I think I finally understand why it works so well. Why it makes me so giddy. Maybe the rest of the world already knew this, but I just came across an article written by Sam Kashner that was originally published in 2021 in Airmail in which Richard Curtis, the writer and director of Love Actually, shared his original concept for the film. “The idea being to create a movie that is more deliberately a group of stories - so that we tell 7 romances - or 14 romances at their key and peak moments - rather than concentrating on one - but go for the moments of maximum emotion …

In other words, Curtis’s goal for Love Actually was to create the emotional equivalent of crack. He purposely dispensed with the sluggish bits around character development and story arc, paring all nine romantic story lines into just their essential, most intense emotional cuts. It’s the movie version of social media, delivering one mind-bathing, quick dopamine #hit after another. And he relies on, actually needs, to deploy the shorthand of stereotypes and predictability in order for us, the audience, to do the pattern recognition necessary to fill in the story lines around the peaks. The twist to the story line involving Billy Mack only works, for instance, because we buy into every stereotype of a washed-up, aging rocker without Curtis having had to fill all that in for us.

Curtis’s formula for creating “moments of maximum emotion“ is like Christmas crack. At least for me, and perhaps also for the other 1.4 million other viewers who watched it this year.

And so, on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Love Actually, let’s celebrate some of its emotional peaks, shall we?

3 Most Heartwarming Vignettes

  1. Sarah and Karl

That moment when Alan Rickman’s character Harry, the head of some kind of nonprofit (the details of which we are spared), asks one of his employees, Sarah (Laura Linney), how long she’s worked at the firm, she responds “Two years, seven months, three days and one hour and 30 minutes.” And then he asks her how long she’s been in love with Karl, the firm’s “enigmatic chief designer,” and she says “Two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, an hour and 30 minutes.”

(And no, we won’t let it pass that, of course, it was ludicrously intrusive of Harry to not only ask such a personal question of Sarah, but then, further, to go on and give her the unsolicited romantic advice to do something about her crush on Karl.)

And then, days later at the office holiday party, the look on Sarah‘s face when Karl asks her to slow dance and he starts tenderly stroking her hair.

(And, no, we won’t let it pass that playing a “slow dance“ (just like the ones in high school) is ludicrous for an office party, a custom that any sensible HR Department worth anything put a stop to long before 2003.)

  1. Billy and Joe

That moment when Billy sheepishly says this to his long-time, under-appreciated manager: “I realized that Christmas is the time to be with the people you love. And I realized that, as dire chance and fateful cockup would have it, here I am, mid-fifties, and without knowing it, I’ve spent most of my adult life with a chubby employee. And much as it grieves me to say it, it might be that the people I love is, in fact … you.” Billy Mack “Well, this is a surprise.” Joe

  1. Sam and Daniel

That moment when Daniel, Sam’s stepfather, learns that Sam’s suffering is caused by being in love, not grief over the loss of his Mother. Relieved, Daniel says “I thought it might be something worse.” “Worse than the total agony of being in love?” asks Sam. “No, you’re right. Total agony,” responds Daniel.

(No, we never learn the “detail” of where Sam’s Father is and why he is being raised by his stepfather.)

And then the moment when precious Sam explains the reason why love has him in such despair. “SHE doesn’t even know my name. And even if she did, she’d despise me. She’s the coolest girl in school. And everyone worships her because she’s heaven.”

Single Most Triumphant Moment

Sam and Daniel’s brief but brilliant storyline leads to what I believe is the most triumphant moment in the film (and the moment I think the film should have ended on, but it doesn’t quite.) It begins with Daniel, Sam’s wingman extraordinaire, urging Sam on in his chase to catch up with his crush to declare his love, saying to Sam “Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.” (This is my favorite line in the film. An exhortation on how love - with all of its complexity, inconvenience and, even, pain, is worth it.)

“Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.”

Sam’s moment of triumph is the moment he decides to leap boldly into declaring his love, come whatever may. The bravery. The charge. The exaltation that is the expression itself, of love.

If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend!  And I'd love to have you join us on instagramfacebook & twitter.

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The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter from Dish Stanley curating articles & intelligence on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?


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