RARELY HAS THE POWER OF CINEMA BEEN FELT BY SO MANY, IN SUCH OPPOSING WAYS…
“Love Actually dulls the critical senses, making those susceptible to its hallucinogenic powers think they’ve seen a funny, warm-hearted, romantic film about the many complex manifestations of love. Colourful Narcotics. A perfect description of a bafflingly popular film.”
By any reasonable measurement, Love Actually is a bad movie. There are plenty of bad movies out there, but what gets under Gary Raymond’s skin here is that it seems to have tricked so many people into thinking it’s a good movie. In this hilarious, scene-by-scene analysis of the Christmas monolith that is Love Actually, Gary Raymond takes us through a suffocating quagmire of badly drawn characters, nonsensical plotlines, and open bigotry, to a climax of ill-conceived schmaltz.
How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) is the definitive case against a terrible movie. With a foreword by Lisa Smithstead.
What can I say? When I saw the invite to this book I thought “aah, yes! I remember that film, I’ve seen it on tv.” Of course, that was a while ago, what ten, fifteen, maybe more years ago. It wasn’t really a film on my favourites list. Actually I was a bit indifferent truth be told! Still, it was a surprise to hear that it was up at the top with the best ever Christmas RomCom films.
I think, mostly, I was intrigued about how such a film could make someone write a book on why they disliked it so. Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) is a book that, just like the film itself apparently, some will hate and some will love. Wait, you say, you said you were indifferent – what about those readers, or even the ones that have never seen the film? Aah, yes! What about us?
All right let’s think about that.
I remembered Emma Thompson and, yes, Alan Rickman – a married couple going through a sticky patch. Wasn’t he having an affair or about to or something? Actually the author puts an interesting twist on the present, as in gift, situation.
Liam Neeson played a dad, recently widowed whose young son was enamoured of a girl at his school. I thought this was supposed to be a sweet theme in the film but the author has other, not unrealistic, thoughts on this one.
Then, of course, there was Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon. He played the Prime Minister, she some kind of assistant at No.10 who brought him tea and biscuits. Here I think we certainly get to the crux of the matter for Gary Raymond.
It was somewhat absurd but these sorts of films often are and I think I just shelved it away in the back of my mind. I might watch again, but never have, I don’t hate it but I wouldn’t seek it out certainly not as a ‘favourite film’!
I thought this was a fascinating book as it brought back so much more of what was in the film – I thought the Colin Firth theme was a film of it’s own, although I couldn’t recall the name – now I know why!
As for Martin Freeman and Laura Linney I’d forgotten completely about them, sorry! Same went for one of the other themes – and that was something to be grateful for.
I checked out a Guardian review, from 2003, which basically said the film was rubbish except for Bill Nighy – then I remembered, how could I forget, Bill Nighy – he played the rock star trying for a come back.
As I read the book so much more about it that I had forgotten, or perhaps wiped from my memory, came back.
The book takes pretty much a forensic look at the film as the author chapter by chapter writes about what happened in the film and why he feels it was so bad. There are some real laugh out loud moments, especially, when reading the footnotes. The author doesn’t hold back on his disdain but, to be fair, gives credit when he feels it’s due. Not often, mind you, but then as he reels off all his reasons it’s not really surprising. On this point do read the forward which is a pretty good commentary in itself.
The premise that the author puts forward as being the one the film is written on the basis of – Christmas is a time to speak the truth – is as baffling to me as it is to him and, I dare say, to all those who spend time at Christmas with those they rarely see for the rest of the year simply because they are related! Or, indeed, to those who believe in a Christian god with all the material paraphernalia that surrounds what is, for them, a religious festival.
I also felt that, along with Gary Raymond, that it was a shame that Rowan Atkinson’s role (yes, he was in it too! What a caste.) was edited in such a way as to miss the point of his character altogether.
Reading the book made me feel that not recalling much of the film was no bad thing. Gary Raymond who besides being an author is a film (and etc.) critic so he is an authoritative voice not just someone with a random dislike of the film and this certainly comes through in the book – he obviously knows about the film world, what goes on in film making and so on. Is he right in his judgment? Well, actually, I think I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
This is a book that anyone with a sense of humour will appreciate, those who dislike the film will love, those who love the film will be amazed with the fresh take on each scene (or is that appalled?) and those of us who are pretty much indifferent, or haven’t seen it, will take it as validation for not having to ever watch it (again).
Christmas cheer in a book! Indeed, in the words of Scrooge himself “Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said `Bah!’ again; and followed it up with `Humbug.’” (From “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens).
This is just the sort of book that should, and – hopefully – will find itself in many a Christmas stocking this year and in years to come.
If you don’t get it then you can always buy yourself a copy and for those who do receive it – enjoy!
With thanks to Emma of #damppebblesblogtours for the invite to read and review Love Actually Ruined Christmas by Gary Raymond. Also, my thanks to Parthian Books for a gifted copy of the book. All thoughts are my own. I do not receive any payment for my reviews.
Like to check out more thoughts on Love Actually Ruined Christmas by Gary Raymond? Check out these wonderful blogs, enjoy!….
Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor, and broadcaster. He is presenter of The Review Show for BBC Radio Wales and editor of Wales Arts Review. He is a regular writer on film, music, literature and theatre, and can often be heard on BBC Radio 3 and 4 as an arts commentator and reviewer. His novels include For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015), The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018), and the upcoming Angels of Cairo (Parthian, 2021).
Publishing Information: Published in paperback and digital format by Parthian Books on 2nd November 2020
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