Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 17: Speak To Me Not Words Of War, But Words Of Love

On a day in Australia when everyone is talking about war, I’d prefer to talk about Love...actually.

Love Actually is a troublesome film for me, I love and loathe it in equal parts. If I were stuck in a hotel room, surfing the channels of the tv and found a film I “should” watch on one station and Love Actually on another, I might well choose the latter. Let's just call it a "guilty pleasure", eh?

There’s so much for me to dislike about Love Actually: it’s rife with gross implausibility, it’s set in a London that’s very unfamiliar and, at times, unrecognisable to me, it’s twee, it’s sentimental to the point of mawkishness and in parts, it’s cheesey. And, who the hell, when swearing says things like “...shit, buggedy, bum”! That’s not swearing.

So what’s in this film, for me, that weaves together nine different plots of love?

1. It’s London and it’s Christmas. I can’t think of any place where I would rather be at Christmas.

2. The wonderful moment when the “Mark” character is caught out by Keira Knightley’s character, having fixated his camera on her, at her wedding to his best friend; he has secretly held a candle for her, she has found out and says to him: “But you never talk to me - you always talk to Peter. You don’t like me.” Will women ever really understand men?

3. Hugh Grant does his perennial foppish bachelor schtick, and d’you know what, it makes me laugh, sort of?

4. In another plot, Liam Neeson’s recently widowed character (so tragically poignant now), is trying to get his stepson, Sam, to open up to him. Liam is worried as to why the boy won’t talk to him and is relieved when Sam confesses that the problem is that he’s in love. Sam is perplexed at his stepfather’s reaction and responds with: “What could be worse than the total agony of being in love?” Tick that box...I know that one

5. Bill Nighy’s over-the-hill rock star - Billy Mack - is a fantastically lurid, comic turn.

6. The heartbreaking scene where Emma Thompson’s character retreats to her marital bedroom having discovered that her husband has duped her by playing fast and loose with his PA. Emma Thompson says nothing yet her few actions speak volumes of truthfulness and Joni Mitchell underscores the moment.

7. I’m a sucker for Martine McCutcheon. Sorry, what can I say, there's an Eliza Doolittle out there for all of us.

8. Most importantly, I get what it is that writer/director Richard Curtis wants us to get from this multiplot story and he’ll not have to brook an argument from me.

Day #17 Tip: Don’t Have A Theme, Have A Controlling Idea
Within the last 30 minutes of Love Actually, the nine plots all Climax: Sam, the young boy, chases after Joanna, the young American girl and tells her what he thinks of her: that she’s the one for him.

Colin Firth’s character flies to Marseilles and, in front of the patrons of a crowded restaurant, asks Portugese Aurelia, to marry him.

Rock star Billy Mack leaves Elton John’s Christmas shindig to "watch porn and drink whisky" with his long-suffering manager and friend, revealing to him that “ turn out to be the fucking love of my life...”

In a coda, to Mark and Keira Knightley’s Juliet story, Mark spells out his feelings - come what may - and then moves on with his life.

Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister publicly confirms his feelings for Natalie in front of a whole school in Wandsworth, and so all the plots are wrapped up in positive conclusion, with one notable exception.

Sarah (Laura Linney) and her office colleague Karl, quietly fancy each other. They nearly get it together after the company Christmas party but there are complications. Throughout their plot they are both given ample opportunity to say what they feel for each other, but don’t. Consequently, their love lies and dies unspoken.

In virtually all of Love Actually’s plot climaxes, characters find ”love” when they are able to muster up the courage and express this love, mostly, in words. “Love” has a chance to flourish in the world of the characters when they speak love. In the parlance of a film screenplay’s Controlling Idea (which must be made up of a VALUE and a CAUSE), the overriding value that comes into the worlds of the characters at the end of this film is “love” and the cause (what made it happen) is “speaking it (love)”.

Hugh Grant’s voice-over in the prologue says this: “...Before the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate and revenge - they were all messages of love”

I believe Richard Curtis’s Controlling Idea that permeates the whole of this film and resonates throughout, is something along the lines of “Love lives when it is spoken and dies when left unsaid” or something like that. It’s true n’est pas? Love ain’t telepathic, I can’t think myself in or to love.

Last night, at the dinner table, I watched, as the telephone was passed to my nearly three year-old Godson so that his mum could speak to him from Adelaide. The light in his eyes, the smile on his face as he listened to his Mum’s words, and he managed two or three of his own back to her, prove beyond doubt Richard Curtis’s point.

Robert McKee’s idea of a film’s Controlling Idea is much much more than just a theme, it’s more a screenplay’s meaningful watermark; my watermark, your watermark, of what you or I want to say to the world through our stories.

Today I want to say this to the world: one of the things I actually love about being single, is that every time I leave my apartment, I could turn a street corner and meet the love of my life...I must remember to tell her.

Please find a moment, somewhere today, to put on the Beach Boys‘ track 'God Only Knows'.

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