Sunday, April 13, 2008

Soundtrack Sunday: Love, Actually

I don't know why, but Love, Actually (2003) perpetually makes the list whenever I talk about my favorite movies.

Frankly, I didn't have high expectations before I watched it. The only reason I wound up seeing it was the superstar British cast (Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant) that for once wasn't up to its necks in waistcoats and pinafores. Sure, I liked Richard Curtis' Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999). But this film sounded too chick flicky.

Much to my surprise, I really dug it. Sure, people have complained about too many story lines – and none of them quite deep enough. And all those neat coincidences at the end. But to me, the whole movie struck a really good balance.

Sure, all the romantic stuff was a little bit over the top. But that was the point, right? I think Curtis set out to make everything so over-the-top that you can't help but step back and laugh. Furthermore, all that sappiness was also counterbalanced by the heartbreaking story lines of Thompson and Laura Linney.

You also had to love all the slapsticky ridiculousness thrown in. After all, Curtis got his big break writing for Rowan Atkinson's Black Adder (1983-89). Vestiges of that show's silliness can be seen in the storylines involving the aging rocker played by Bill Nighy (the antithesis of the officious bureaucrat he usually plays) and the blossoming love affair of the two nude stand-ins. Yep, the chicks may lap up this stuff. But we guys know better. This Curtis guy really is a Three Stooges fan at heart.

One more thing about the film: The music.

Sure, there are a few songs that you really don't want to touch (The only reason "Wherever You Will Go" by the Calling is included is probably to drive up U.S. sales) and too many of the songs are available elsewhere. But as a whole, the 17-song collection works.

I no longer have to include Mariah Carey on any of my holiday mixes because the incredibly talented Olivia Olson blows the former Mrs. Mottola away with her version of the Carey co-written ditty, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (Curtis says on the DVD commentary that the ten-year-old's singing was so perfect they had to ask to sing more like a kid).

Play "All I Want for Christmas Is You" By Olivia Olson

The soundtrack plays like an eclectic mix tape. You have Joni Mitchell's haunting "cover" of her own "Both Sides Now," Otis Redding doing "White Christmas," the Pointer Sisters' campy classic "Jump (For My Love)" and "Songbird," a Fleetwood Mac cover from the late Eva Cassidy. Just like the movie itself, it manages to juggle the happy and the sad with aplomb.

Play "Take Me As I Am" by Wyclef Jean Featuring Sharissa

Play "Here With Me" by Dido

I'm also quite fond of the score from Craig Armstrong, a Scottish musician who has quietly carved a reputation for himself as a composer of understated yet beautiful and memorable film scores. The main theme – which appropriately plays amid all the over-the-top happy endings at the film's conclusion – is a little to schmaltzy for my taste. So instead, I'll post his other score snippet on the CD, the more elegantly simple "Glasgow Love Theme."

Play "Glasgow Love Theme" by Craig Armstrong

So yes, I like this "chick flick." But shhhh. It will be our little secret.

No comments: