‘Love Actually’ Turns 20: Revisiting Its Incredible, Awful Greatness
21.11.2023 - 21:55
Stephen Rodrick In the years before Twitter was euthanized, I’d patiently wait for the onset of the holiday season, and the renewal in my feed of the great “Love Actually” Debate. Every year, the best and brightest of the world — middle management apparatchiks, underemployed magazine writers and hall of fame doomscrollers — would chime in, mostly on the nein side, and make their arguments with eloquence. My favorite was ‘You’re a fucking idiot.’ That one I heard a lot.
“Love Actually” turns 20 this month, and I thought it was time for a thorough revaluation. Was it still a glorious double-steak overstuffed Chipotle burrito of humanity, or would I now see it as they did — a foot-long Subway sandwich with way too many olives bought at a South Dakota gas station? So I watched the movie again this week. I was struck with an unearned epiphany, the kind that you find in a middlebrow holiday romantic comedy.
Turns out, I was going about my defense of the movie in the wrong way. I was trying to argue the merits of the performances of Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, the beauty of holiday-time London, and so on. I now realize the argument that can bring all of us together: “Love Actually” is amazing — and I’m paraphrasing Voltaire here — because everything about it is fucking nuts.
Think about it: You probably have some movie/record/performance that you love, but all your learned friends thought was rubbish. For me, it’s the Beach Boys’ “Surf Up” album, a sublime late-career effort that also features the tracks “Student Demonstration Time,” as bad as it sounds, and “Don’t Go Near the Water,” the corniest environmental song in all of Christendom. These are the two of the worst Beach Boys’ tracks ever recorded, and
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