Best of DVDs...with M.V. Moorhead
Love, Actually

Actually. What a great word. Nobody says the word “actually” like the English of the posher classes. For them, perhaps, it’s a way of admitting that most of what they say is understated pleasantry, while at the same time asserting that the particular remark to which they’re attaching the modifier is heartfelt, even though they aren’t about to drop the reserved, self-deprecating manner.

Coupled with the word “love,” it’s a fairly hot-blooded English avowal of passion, actually.

Even among the English, no one says the word “actually” quite like Hugh Grant. He used it more than once in his halting, foot-shuffling performance in Four Weddings and a Funeral back in 1994, and now he uses it again in Love, Actually, the current romantic comedy from the same writer, Richard Curtis.

Grant plays the young prime minister of England, who arrives for his first day at Ten Downing Street only to find himself instantly afflicted with infatuation for a smiling, zaftig office assistant (Martine McCutcheon) who bears, though it’s never stated, some resemblance to our Ms. Lewinsky.

This is one of several plot strands which Curtis loosely interweaves. The theme, it need hardly be said, is love: Romantic, marital, erotic, cross-cultural, adulterous, parental, filial, puppy, requited, unrequited, from afar, even patriotic—all of these variations are treated by the enormous cast.

Indeed, the case could probably be made that Curtis, also making his directorial debut, got a bit overambitious here, that there are too many plotlines, that some of them inevitably get short shrift.

But I enjoyed the company of all of these people, and even when the movie gets a bit corny and carried away, as in a chase through Heathrow at the end, I found myself indulging it as one would indulge someone going on and on about a new love.

Standouts among the cast include Bill Nighy, hilarious as a down-on-his-luck rock star hoping for a Christmas hit; Kris Marshall as a dorky Brit convinced (not unreasonably) that his accent would make him a hit with American girls; Lucia Montez as the Portuguese housekeeper for whom Colin Firth falls across the language barrier and Emma Thompson as the wife of the straying Alan Rickman—she suffers courageously in the grand Greer Garson tradition.

Most impressive of all, maybe, is the prodigal young Thomas Sangster as Liam Neeson’s stepson, who’s smitten with a girl at school. This kid’s grave, sober line readings dare you to patronize the significance of his feelings.

The DVD—Some of the extras aren’t too bad. The deleted scenes, duds on most discs, are pretty good here; indeed, some of them—especially a few involving the headmistress of a school—struck me better than some of the stuff that ended up in the finished film.

There’s a review of the songs on the soundtrack by director Curtis, and, best of all, there’s a funny audio commentary track featuring Curtis, Nighy, young Sangster and Grant, whose snarky remarks are pretty entertaining, actually.