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NO LOVE FOR ‘LOVE ACTUALLY’

        

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not often, but every once in a while — after my days of reviewing every movie in town had come to an end but I still wrote a weekly column — I’d opine about a movie that I was going to skip and explain why, and a few readers would call me on the carpet for ‘reviewing’ a film that I admitted I had not seen. Obviously, these columns were not meant as reviews but rather as observations about how I came to a decision to avoid something … much as my past reviews had assisted readers who were debating about which of the many movies in town to see.

 

An example is this column, published in the Deseret News on Nov. 7, 2003, under the headline, ‘A good trailer? Sometimes there’s a hitch.’ To my utter astonishment, the film in question, ‘Love Actually,’ has become a Christmastime staple. Well, it is a Christmas-themed romantic comedy, but it also has content that I would have thought might keep it on the sidelines. Shows how much I know. ‘Love Actually’ was a big box-office hit and is revived each year around this time.

 

After seeing the trailer for "Love Actually," my wife and I were anxious to see it.

After reading the reviews, we decided to skip it.

There aren't many movie trailers that appeal to us these days. In fact, most of them are groaners.

Too often as we sit through the "previews of coming attractions" that seem to go on forever before the film finally starts I find myself rolling my eyes, then leaning over to my wife and whispering, "I'm so glad I'm not the movie critic anymore."

Meaning, of course, that since I no longer have to see everything, we can pick and choose.

As a result, my annual movie consumption has dropped from some 250 to somewhere between 50 and 70. And half or more of those are disappointments. Sometimes big disappointments.

Once upon a time, moviegoers felt comfortable going to any film by a favorite filmmaker (John Huston, John Ford, Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock … ) or a favorite actor (Myrna Loy, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, John Wayne, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck … ).

Not anymore.

 

Myrna Loy, left, and Sandra Bullock shine as movie stars of different eras.

If you go to a film just because Tom Cruise is in it, you might find yourself in "Magnolia." Or Sandra Bullock may lead you to "Gun Shy." Julia Roberts, "Full Frontal." Jack Nicholson," "Anger Management." Meryl Streep, "Adaptation." Dennis Quaid, "Cold Creek Manor." Jim Carrey, "The Majestic." George Clooney, "Welcome to Collinwood." Dustin Hoffman, “Confidence."

In the olden, golden days, even if the movie with your favorite star wasn't very good, it usually wasn't as bad as any of those.

But I digress.

Getting back to “Love Actually,” the studio that's selling it is really doing a bang-up job. The come-hither ads portray the film as a charming and funny ensemble romantic-comedy. And, by all accounts, that is an accurate representation … of at least a few of the many romantic entanglements portrayed.

The star who seems to be the central player, Hugh Grant, is a very charming and funny fellow and we chuckled at several of his moments in the "Love Actually" trailer. And the rest of the cast is peppered with appealing players — including the wonderful Emma Thompson, whom we have not seen in a film for some time.

What's more, "Love Actually's" writer-director Richard Curtis — who makes his directing debut with this film — has done a lot of screenwriting that we've enjoyed in the past, from the "Black Adder" and "Mr. Bean" TV series to the theatrical film "Four Weddings and a Funeral.”

However, upon looking at several reviews before the film opened today, I read that one of the romances portrayed in "Love Actually" is about a couple of porn-film actors.

Say what? I didn't get that from the trailer.

My enthusiasm waned.

 

Tom Cruise, left, and James Stewart epitomize box-office draws from different periods.

Then I read that this element is the primary cause for the film's R rating, and that "Love Actually" is surprisingly graphic and raunchy.

My waning enthusiasm dissipated.

OK, call me a prude. But I've grown weary of sex on the big screen. It's all been done. Repeatedly. Redundantly. Ad nauseum.

Strangely, a bit of retro-subtlety on the part of filmmakers today might actually seem innovative.

Not that it would necessarily catch on as a filmmaking trend.

There's obviously an audience for such graphic sexual material, however. Look for "Love Actually" to be a big hit this weekend.

But there are always too many other movie choices out there. In recent weeks my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed "School of Rock," "Seabiscuit," "Secondhand Lions" and "Step Into Liquid," all of which are now playing at a theater near you, as they say.

So why should I bother with one that I know will just annoy me?