The Films of Richard Curtis
Love Actually (November 7/03)
Love Actually is eight romantic comedies rolled into one, which is certainly why the film is so entertaining - but also contributes to the feeling that some characters have gotten the short shrift. The film follows the escapades of over a dozen figures as they pursue love in various forms, with actors like Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson appearing in different stories. (It is, essentially, Short Cuts for the Lifetime crowd.) The film probably would have been more effective if writer/director Richard Curtis had settled on three or four couples and just focused his attention on their exploits; there aren't any unwatchable subplots here, but there are a few that could've been excised completely. This undoubtedly would have allowed Curtis to spend more time with, say, Colin Firth's character, which involves his potential relationship with a Portuguese maid. As for storylines that could've been removed, the most obvious standouts are those involving Laura Linney and Keira Knightley (separately, not together). Both actresses are quite good, but their respective scenarios don't really add anything to the overall picture - and, in fact, wind up taking away from folks whose company we'd rather be in (Bill Nighy, for example, is hilarious as a has-been old singer, but he doesn't receive nearly enough screentime). Still, Love Actually is tremendously entertaining and with all these charismatic actors running around, there's bound to be one or two that'll appeal to you.
The Boat That Rocked
About Time (October 31/13)
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, About Time follows Domhnall Gleeson's Tim as he discovers, on his 21st birthday, that he has the ability to travel back in time to any point in his own life - with the movie, in part, detailing Tim's efforts at exploiting his newfound abilities for personal gain (which includes cultivating a relationship with Rachel McAdams' Mary). There little doubt that About Time, in its early stages, plays like a fairly typical romantic comedy from filmmaker Curtis, as the movie contains many of the touchstones with which the Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill scripter has come to be associated - including a meet-cute for the film's stars and a supporting cast populated with overtly off-kilter figures. And although not everything here entirely works - Curtis' hurry to get Tim and Mary together ensures that their courtship feels rushed, for example - About Time easily establishes itself as a compulsively watchable romcom that benefits substantially from the charisma of (and chemistry between) its two stars. It's only as the movie segues into its second half that it becomes something far more engrossing and affecting than one might've anticipated, as Curtis layers the narrative with emotional elements that grow more and more heartrending as time progresses - with, especially, the intensely moving relationship between Tim and his father (Bill Nighy) providing the film with its most poignant moments. The undeniable rough-cut atmosphere is, as a result, very easy to overlook, and it's ultimately clear that About Time, despite its deficiencies, is one of the best movies of its type to come around in a great long while.