I feel pretty alone among pop culture critics, in that I actually love Love Actually. It’s essential viewing during my Christmas tradition of last-minute drunken present-wrapping and I’ve spent plural hours defending some of its more questionable elements. So when I heard a 10-minute sequel would be airing as part of Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day special on the BBC last Friday, I was psyched as secretly sentimental balls. It won’t air in the U.S. until May, but the “Internet” is a thing, so there’s no shortage of clips and gushing reviews for me to dive into like a post-Valentine’s Day dumpster.
What hadn’t occurred to me yet was that much of what I loved about Love Actually, and what allowed me to defend it, was that we didn’t see what happened after the credits roll. Everyone (mostly) gets a happy ending, leaving me perfectly free to assume that the rest of their lives work out just as happily. I can’t assume that anymore. Because no matter how many times I watch that clip of a delightfully aging, dancing Hugh Grant, I can’t shake the feeling that none of these people learned a damn thing.
Only six of the 10 storylines from the original movie are featured, but it would be criminal not to check up on Rick Grimes and his cue cards. This is the scene I’ve spent the most time defending. Where a lot of people see an overbearing creep, I see a poor schmuck who clearly isn’t great at expressing himself doing his best to wrangle a cat that’s already been let out of the bag, respectfully assuring his best friend’s wife that he doesn’t expect anything to come out of his silly crush on her and making an effort to grow up and move on. Let’s see how that worked out.
BBCThe back side of the sign says, “Spare change?”
OK, so we’re still not great with communication, huh? He goes on to say, via poster board, that he hasn’t seen the object of his former affections since the events of the first movie … 13 years ago. Which is really weird given that she’s married to his best friend. Was she perhaps way less cool with the whole thing than she seemed, blabbing to her husband and leading to a huge falling out between the two friends? Apparently not, because the husband (still upstairs watching a football game, oblivious to the serial killer shit happening down below) makes a fourth-wall-breaking crack about the guy’s beard that he’s obviously seen. Either he’s got laser vision and this is a way cooler movie than we thought, or maybe marker boy just happened to move away immediately after confessing his love but they’re still Facebook friends and whatnot. That makes his next reveal even weirder: He’s met, fallen in love with, and married Kate Moss — something he joked about on one of those famed cue cards of old.
“Ah, so you’re the one whose name he sobs during sex … “
Sooooo, he’s been keeping that a secret from his best friend’s wife — and by extension, his best friend — all this time? Why? So he could dramatically reveal it with Sharpie and an iPod? Dude, you still have no idea how humans work, do you? You don’t seem to have matured a single bit in over a decade, or even tried to. And you better get on it, or I give your marriage to Kate Moss about the length of a line of blow. Dammit, I was rooting for you.
Then there’s baby Jojen Reed, who I literally just realized was Liam Neeson’s son in this movie even though he didn’t age a day in the 10 years between it and Game Of Thrones.
BBC, HBO“Screw winter, when is puberty coming?”
It’s a fairly inappropriate parent-child relationship they have, the former encouraging the latter to pursue a girl he barely knows who also happens to have the same name as his recently deceased mother. His advice is to connect with his crush through the time-honored combination of music and not really talking to her, sprinkled with jokes about celebrities’ sex lives that you definitely shouldn’t tell a prepubescent child. The girl ends up going back home to America, but not before he breaks several laws to reach her at the airport and she rewards him with a kiss, hopefully giving him the confidence to go out into the world and pursue women on the basis of more than their similarities to his dead mother. And when grown-up Sam shows up in London to surprise his father, it’s looking good for him. Sometime in the last decade, he moved to New York City, and he’s gained the confidence to proudly wear platform sneakers and an impressively bad mustache.
BBC“If you’re ever taken, I will not look for you.”
Quick side-note: What’s with these people and surprise visits? Do they not believe in phones? Are they not even a little worried about catching their loved one in the middle of an epic porn marathon? Anyway, my hope for Sam is quickly dashed when he introduces another surprise visitor: The same American girl he was obsessed with as a boy, who (over the course of the scene) becomes his fiancee.
So, far from gaining the confidence to develop a more mature adult relationship, Sam is apparently so crippled by neurosis — thanks to the trauma of his mother’s death and his father’s sublimation of his own grief into the wacky micromanagement of his son’s love life — that he’s unable to form a connection with anyone but the girl he was obsessed with for two minutes in 2003. And what do you think the odds are that these two young people happened to bump into each other in a city, oceans away from where they met, where you can’t even meet up with someone on purpose without a compass and a machete to hack your way through the hordes of undead subway riders? One of them must have tracked the other down, and I think we all know which one. (Hint: It’s the one with the “I’m on a list” mustache.) It’s entirely possible that he moved to America in order to find her. Again, a girl he barely knew even when they were kids. And she’s either OK with that, and therefore equally as messed up, or bound to find out eventually exactly what she agreed to spend the rest of her life with. There’s a lesson here, parents: Don’t make your kids think about Meat Loaf’s penis. It’ll fuck them up for life.
Then there’s Colin Firth’s character, the lovelorn writer who retreats to the French countryside and ends up falling for the Portuguese maid he’s hired even though they’ve never truly spoken, as she doesn’t speak English and he doesn’t speak Portuguese. People thought it was moving a little too fast when, by the end of the film, he’s asked her to marry him in broken Portuguese. But guess what, bitches? They’re still going strong! Not only did they get married, they have three beautiful children! Don’t you see? By knowing the other person couldn’t understand them, they could be truly honest, and that habit didn’t go away after they started comprehending each other. Suck it, cynics!
Then this happened and my heart-boner audibly retreated right into my chest-sack:
BBC*Play For Full Effect*
Not because he doesn’t look terribly happy about it, or because four kids in 13 years seems like a bit much, but because she says it in Portuguese and his response is, “That’s great, can we have rice with it this time? I’m tired of stir fry.” I get it, it’s supposed to be funny, but are you telling me he’s had 13 years to learn her language and he’s still no better than he was at the end of the first movie? She must know that, so why does she insist on speaking Portuguese to him when we know she was learning English, too? That seems kind of passive-aggressive, possibly resentful of his inconsideration.
Or, maybe they both gave it a go for a few months and then realized that their relationship was better when they couldn’t understand each other. Panicked when the bloom started to come off the rose, they silently agreed to stop trying, hoping to keep the spark alive through mutual incomprehension. Because if you don’t understand what your partner is saying, they can be saying whatever you want them to. And they’ve kept that going for 13 years. Because love actually is more complicated than a slightly overlong Christmas movie, and that’s kind of terrifying.