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Movie Review:

"Love Actually"

This is the most expensive movie I have ever seen.

No, it's not because of the budget of the film, which I'd expect is actually fairly small.

It's because I underestimated the length of the trailers, etc. and the time ran out on the parking meter and I got a $50 parking ticket. Well, you probably know how I feel about the city of Chicago parking system, and I won't go into it further, but I am going to appeal it anyway. At the very least, that buys me a month or two before I have to pay it.

Oh, the movie. Well, it was written and directed by Richard Curtis, who was responsible for such comedies as "Notting Hill", "Four Weddings and a Funeral", and "Bridget Jones' Diary", and he's pretty much put just about everyone who was in those three films in this one (except Renee Zellweger, who is presently busy putting weight back on to appear in the "Bridget Jones" sequel that's out in 2004).

At first you're thinking this is like the old TV series "Love American Style", since it's about several (I lost count, actually) love stories that wind up intertwining, and in a way, that's a device to get us to the climax, which happens at a Christmas school concert, where one of the principals, a 10-year-old boy who is hopelessly in love with a girl who doesn't even know his name (so he thinks), can perform something that he hopes will win her heart. The boy's father is Liam Neeson, who recently lost his wife and who his stepson, the boy, is hoping will also find love.

There's Hugh Grant's sly portrayal of a British prime minister who looks surprisingly like Tony Blair, and who is far more accessible than you'd think someone in that position should be; there's Emma Thompson as his sister, there's Laura Linney and one of her co-workers trying to tell each other that they are crazy for each other, but can never figure out how, and there's Billy Bob Thornton, playing a U.S. president who is kind of a cross between the bluster of George W. Bush and the randiness (as the Brits would say) of Bill Clinton. Thornton's role is small but pivotal in the life of Grant's prime minister, and of this I shouldn't say more because it would be a spoiler.

There's one that seems silly, about a British young man who can't seem to find a girlfriend, and thinks that the only way to do so is to fly to America. Where he winds up, and what he finds there, is both hilarious and sweet, but I'll let you find out for yourself.

There's more, but frankly, it's not worth spoiling any of the love stories contained in this funny and sweet film; go see it for yourself. It could have wound up cloying and stupid, but instead seems completely realistic, funny yet poignant, with many of the characters learning lessons about life and about themselves. A British newcomer, Keira Knightley, who was so terrific in "Bend It Like Beckham", plays a woman who gets married for what seems like no particular reason, but also winds up learning an unexpected lesson about love. Knightley is a terrific talent and watch out when American directors find out about her; she could be the next Zellweger.

You'll pick out your own favorite among all the love stories told and when I picked mine, I was surprised to find that Roger Ebert, in his review, thought this one wasn't even worth putting in the film.

I heartily disagree. It's about a young British writer named Jamie, who goes to a lakeside home in Marseilles, France, to write, and on arriving hires a Portuguese housekeeper named Aurelia (Lucia Moniz, an actress actually from Portugal, though she did spend a year in high school in Minnesota and in reality, does speak English). It's clear from the beginning that they are falling in love, though he speaks no Portuguese (in fact, at one point he tries to speak Spanish to her) and she speaks not a word of English, as they feel that they don't communicate, we learn from clever subtitles that they are actually feeling and thinking the same thing. When they part, it appears to be for good, yet both of them wind up doing something to please the other, and when they... well, I won't ruin it, only to tell you that even when it appears that two people simply don't understand each other, that love wins in the end.

Wonderful film. Don't miss it.

AYRating: ****