REVIEW: WHAT A GIRL WANTS

CAST

Amanda Bynes (Easy A)
Colin Firth (Devils Knott)
Kelly Preston (Jerry Maguire)
Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood)
Anna Chancellor (The Dreamers)
Jonathan Pryce (Brazil)
Christina Cole (Hex)
Oliver James (Raise Your Voice)

Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) lives a comfortable but unsatisfying life as a young American girl with a bright future. She has never met her father. She lives with her single mother, Libby (Kelly Preston) above a Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown, New York. Believing it is in his best interest, her mother left Daphne’s father seventeen years ago because of his family’s disapproval of their relationship; ultimately, his father’s secretary threw her out of the house, without Libby having a chance to tell him that she was pregnant with their daughter.Daphne flies to London to get to know her father, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who recently inherited an Earldom but has disclaimed his seat in the House of Lords to run for election to the House of Commons to eventually become Prime Minister with Alistair Payne (Jonathan Pryce) backing him up. At a hotel, she meets Ian Wallace (Oliver James), a local boy. She notices her father on the television during a news broadcast, and tells Ian that the politician is her father.When Henry is informed of the existence of the daughter he didn’t know existed, he embraces the opportunity to connect with her at the urging of his mother Jocelyn (Eileen Atkins). Her appearance causes a controversy that endangers his political ambitions. Daphne tries to win the acceptance of her father’s social circle but is repeatedly thwarted by his snobby, gold-digging fiancée, Glynnis Payne (Anna Chancellor) and equally snobby step-daughter-to-be, Clarissa Payne (Christina Cole). Daphne has to ward off the advances of Armistead Stewart (Ben Scholfield), a sleazy upper-class boy whom Clarissa fancies. In the end, Daphne ends up throwing him into the Thames at the Henley Regatta when he tries to kiss her. To please her father and his social circle, she abandons her old style and dons the upper-class sophisticated look. She is noted in the British newspapers because of this.Due to her changing herself, Ian is disappointed and leaves when they were supposed to go to a concert which Daphne forgot about. During her coming-out party hosted by her father, she overhears Alastair[further explanation needed] talking to Glynnis about having “gotten rid of” Daphne’s mother 17 years ago when he says how he thought he would have to do the same thing to Daphne. After Daphne tries to confront him about it, Glynnis grabs Daphne and locks her up. Glynnis then asks the band’s lead singer, Ian, to announce the father-daughter dance. Glynnis, knowing that Daphne is locked up, uses this as a ploy to get Henry to dance with Clarissa. Libby rescues Daphne, but it is too late; Daphne witnesses Henry dancing with Clarissa. Daphne rejects her new self because it is not who she is. She returns to America, and restarts her work as a waitress. Henry announces in a ceremony he is no longer going to pursue his political career. On the steps on his way out, he discovers that Alastair knew about Libby’s pregnancy. Henry punches Alastair in the face for concealing Daphne’s existence. He then breaks off his engagement to Glynnis as it is implied that she also knew about Henry having a child.Daphne is serving at a wedding, and the father-daughter dance begins. She thinks of Henry and what she left behind, and just then, Henry shows up by boat after a long flight from London. After asking him what he’s doing there, Henry informs Daphne that, while on the plane, he wrote down something that he had to tell her at least two hundred times, but is unable to find the papers. He then says that he loves her for who she is and “wouldn’t change one hair on her head”. Daphne, overjoyed, accepts his love and instead of calling him Henry, refers to him as “Dad”. She finally gets the father-daughter dance she has been longing for her whole life, while Libby watches. Realizing that he still loves Libby, Henry informs Daphne that he has “a rather large present” for her. Ian shows up and cuts in. As he and Daphne dance, Henry goes to see Libby. He apologizes to her, Libby accepts his apology, and they kiss.

In the epilogue, Glynnis gets married to a wealthy nobleman and Clarissa marries Armistead Stuart (who still has a wandering eye). Alastair becomes a tour guide in London. Libby and Henry are married in a Bedouin ceremony. This time they make sure it is legal. Daphne gets into Oxford. As the credits start to role, Daphne, Ian, Henry, Libby, and Jocelyn have a family meal outside the Dashwood manor.

This was a cute, clean movie that you can sit down and watch with your family.

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REVIEW: DEVIL’S KNOT

CAST

Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Martin Henderson (The Ring)
Elias Koteas (Shutter Island)
Dane DeHaan (Life After Beth)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Amy Ryan (Gone baby Gone)
Matt Letscher (Legends of Tomorrow)
Stephen Moyer (True Blood)
James Hamrick (Dive)
Seth Meriwether (The Duff)
Kristopher Higgins (In Time)
Mirelle Enos (World War Z)

In 1993, in the working class community of West Memphis, Arkansas, three eight-year-old boys – Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore – go missing from their neighborhood. After an extensive search, their bound and beaten bodies are found the next day. The community and the police department are convinced that the murders are the work of a satanic cult, due to the violent and sexual natures of the crime.A month later, three teenagers – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. – are arrested after Misskelley confesses following approximately 12 hours of interrogation. They are taken to trial, where Baldwin and Misskelley are sentenced to life, and Echols to death, all the while still proclaiming their innocence.Overall, the movie is a good, well-constructed drama and a reasonably fair representation of the case–albeit far from a perfect one. It’s worth seeing and entertaining but not a film for kids to see because of the subject matter.

 

REVIEW: DORIAN GRAY

CAST

Ben Barnes (Westworld)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Ben Chaplin (Cinderella)
Rachel Hurd-Wood (Solomon Kane)
Johnny Harris (Monsters: Dark Continent)
Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3)
Emilia Fox (The Pianist)
Fiona Shaw (The Black Dahlia)
Maryam d’Abo (The Living Daylights)
Caroline Goodall (the Princess Diaries)
Michael Culkin (Candyman)

When a naïve young Dorian Gray arrives in late Victorian London, by train, to inherit an estate left to him by his abusive grandfather, he is swept into a social whirlwind by the charismatic Lord Henry Wotton, who introduces Gray to the hedonistic pleasures of the city. Lord Henry’s friend, society artist Basil Hallward, paints a portrait of Gray to capture the full power of his youthful beauty. When the portrait is unveiled, Gray makes a flippant pledge: he would give anything to stay as he is in the picture—even his soul.Gray meets and falls in love with budding young actress, Sibyl Vane. After a few weeks, he proposes marriage to her. Lord Henry tells Gray that having children is “the beginning of the end”, and after the two men visit a brothel, Gray leaves Sibyl. Heartbroken, the young woman drowns herself. Gray learns of her death the following day from her brother, James (“Jim”), who also reveals that Sybil was pregnant with Gray’s child. Enraged, Jim tries to kill Gray before being restrained and carried off by the authorities. Gray’s initial grief soon disappears as Lord Henry persuades him that all events are mere experiences and without consequence. His hedonistic lifestyle worsens, distancing him from a concerned Hallward.Gray returns home one evening to find that Hallward’s portrait of him has become warped and twisted, and he soon realises that his off-hand pledge has come true; while the portrait ages, its owner’s sins manifest as physical defects on the canvas. Before long, the curse imbued within Gray’s portrait begins in earnest, resulting in Hallward’s brutal murder after the artist reveals his secret. Gray dismembers and dumps Hallward’s body in the River Thames, although the remains are soon recovered and buried.Gray then leaves London to travel for many years, inviting Lord Henry to come with him although Lord Henry declines because of his wife’s pregnancy. Gray returns to London and during the welcome back party the guests are surprised to see that he has not aged at all during his 18-year absence. He becomes close to Lord Henry’s daughter, Emily, a member of the UK suffragette movement, despite Lord Henry’s distaste for such a relationship because of Gray’s lifestyle and unnatural appearance, Emily having provided Lord Henry with a greater moral focus and having changed him for the better. Although Gray appears genuinely interested in changing his ways as he spends time with Emily, matters are complicated when he is confronted by Jim, still seeking revenge for his sister’s death. Despite Gray’s attempts to pretend to be someone else by pointing out his apparent age, Jim nevertheless deduces Gray’s true identity, only to be killed by a train while pursuing Gray in the London Underground. As Gray makes arrangements to leave London with Emily, Lord Henry’s study of old photographs makes him remember the time when he teased Gray to deal with the devil for eternal youth and beauty at the cost of his soul.Breaking into Gray’s house as Gray and Emily are making plans to leave together, Lord Henry discovers the concealed portrait, but is interrupted by Gray before he can uncover it. Although Gray attempts to convince Lord Henry that he still cherishes his friendship and genuinely loves his daughter, Lord Henry discovers the stained scarf of Basil in a box, prompting Gray to declare angrily that he is what Lord Henry has made him, the personification of the life Lord Henry preached but never dared practise. Full of anger and grief, Gray attempts to strangle Lord Henry but is distracted by Emily’s call long enough for Lord Henry to knock him aside and expose the portrait.Disgusted and horrified at the twisted sight on the canvas, Lord Henry throws a lit lamp at the portrait, causing it to catch fire, and then locks the gate of the attic to ensure that Gray and the painting are destroyed. Emily pleads with her father for the key. After seeing her and realising that he really loves her, he turns his back. As Lord Henry drags his daughter out of the house, Gray’s last words are to assure Emily that she has his whole heart. Resolving to end it all, Gray stabs the painting with a poker, causing his body to age the years that it has never suffered, Gray charging at the portrait to impale it as his years catch up to him before the attic is consumed by an explosion.dorian-gray-pics-hd-ben-barnes-8952311-1200-8003A few months later, scarred from the explosion and after a futile attempt to reconcile with Emily over the phone, Lord Henry heads to his attic where he keeps the now-youthful portrait of Gray, grimly noting that nobody will look at it now. As Lord Henry leaves, the portrait’s eyes glow, suggesting that Gray’s soul may still be within the portrait even after his death.The story has seen many adaptations down the years, and i’m certain will see many more in the times to come, however, in my opinion this is far and away the best to date. This is an excellent film, it would be a crime in my view to miss it.

REVIEW: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

CAST

Joseph Fiennes (Flashforward)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron man)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins)
Martin Clunes (Doc Martin)
Simon Callow (Amadeus)
Judi Dench (Skyfall)
Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake)
Colin Firth (Love Actually)
Mark Williams (Harry Potter)
Ben Affleck (Batman V Superman)
Rupert Everett (Shrek 2)

In 1593 London, William Shakespeare is a sometime player in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and poor playwright for Philip Henslowe, owner of The Rose Theatre. Shakespeare is working on a new comedy, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. Suffering from writer’s block, he has barely begun the play, but starts auditioning players. Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, who has seen Shakespeare’s plays at court, disguises herself as “Thomas Kent” to audition, then runs away. Shakespeare pursues Kent to Viola’s house and leaves a note with the nurse, asking Thomas Kent to begin rehearsals at the Rose. He sneaks into the house with the minstrels playing that night at the ball, where her parents are arranging her betrothal to Lord Wessex, an impoverished aristocrat. While dancing with Viola, Shakespeare is struck speechless, and after being forcibly ejected by Wessex, uses Thomas Kent as a go-between to woo her. Wessex also asks Will’s name, to which he replies that he is Christopher Marlowe.When he discovers her true identity, they begin a secret affair. Inspired by her, Shakespeare writes quickly, with help from his friend and rival playwright Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe, completely transforming the play into what will become Romeo and Juliet. Then, Viola is summoned to court to receive approval for her proposed marriage to Lord Wessex. Shakespeare accompanies her, disguised as her female cousin. There, he persuades Wessex to wager £50 that a play can capture the true nature of love, the exact amount Shakespeare requires to buy a share in the Chamberlain’s Men. Queen Elizabeth I declares that she will judge the matter when the occasion arises.

When Richard Burbage, owner of the Curtain, finds out that Shakespeare has cheated him out of both money and the play, he goes to the Rose Theatre with his Curtain Theatre Company and starts a brawl. The Rose Theatre company drives Burbage and his company out and then celebrate at the local pub.

Viola is appalled when she learns Shakespeare is married, albeit separated from his wife, and she realises she cannot escape her duty to marry Wessex. Will discovers that Marlowe is dead, and thinks he is to blame. Lord Wessex suspects an affair between Shakespeare and his bride-to-be. Because Wessex thinks that Will is Kit Marlowe, he approves of Kit’s death, and tells Viola the news. It is later learned that Marlowe had been killed in an accident. Viola finds out that Will is still alive, and declares her love for him.

When Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels, is informed there is a woman player at The Rose, he closes the theatre for breaking the ban on women. Viola’s identity is exposed, leaving them without a stage or lead actor, until Richard Burbage offers them his theatre. Shakespeare takes the role of Romeo, with a boy actor as Juliet. Following her wedding, Viola learns that the play will be performed that day, and runs away to the Curtain. Planning to watch with the crowd, Viola overhears that the boy playing Juliet cannot perform, and offers to replace him. While she plays Juliet to Shakespeare’s Romeo, the audience is enthralled, despite the tragic ending, until Master Tilney arrives to arrest everyone for indecency due to Viola’s presence.

But the Queen is in attendance and restrains Tilney, instead asserting that Kent’s resemblance to a woman is, indeed, remarkable. However, even a queen is powerless to end a lawful marriage, and she orders Kent to “fetch” Viola because she must sail with Wessex to the Colony of Virginia. The Queen also tells Wessex, who followed Viola to the theatre, that Romeo and Juliet has won the bet for Shakespeare, and has Kent deliver his £50 with instructions to write something “a little more cheerful next time, for Twelfth Night”.

Viola and Shakespeare say their goodbyes, and he vows to immortalise her, as he imagines the beginnings of Twelfth Night, imagining her as a castaway disguised as a man after a voyage to a strange land.

Stoppard certainly knows what he’s about: The plot is delightful and the references elegant, clever parodies if you spot them or inconspicuous parts of the plot if you don’t. And the references are on all levels: to Shakespeares plays, his unknown life and the many theories that have been made about it, and his writer and actor collegues Will’s muse is Violet, played wonderfully by Gwyneth Paltrow, who shows off in this film her finest acting to date and credibly pulls off the tricky task of being both an object of poetic inspiration and a genuine, down-to-earth human being.

REVIEW: GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING

CAST

Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Scarlett Johansson (Avengers Assemble)
Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins)
Judy Parfitt (Ever After)
Cillian Murphy (Inception)
Essie Davis (The Babadook)
Anna Popplewell (Reign)

Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a shy girl living in the Dutch Republic in 1665. Her father, a Delftware painter, has recently gone blind, rendering him unable to work and putting his family in a precarious financial situation. To help matters, Griet is sent to work as a maid in the household of famed painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). Griet works hard, almost wordlessly, in the lowest position in a harsh hierarchy, doing her best despite spiteful treatment by one of Vermeer’s children. While she is on a routine shopping trip outside the house, a butcher’s son, Pieter (Cillian Murphy), notices Griet and falls in love with her, even though she is slow to return his affections.

As Griet cleans Vermeer’s studio, which his wife Catharina (Essie Davis) never enters, the painter begins to converse with her and encourages her appreciation of painting, light and color. Vermeer gives her lessons in mixing paints and other tasks, taking care to keep this secret from his wife, who would react with anger and jealousy if she found out that her husband was spending time with Griet. In contrast, Vermeer’s pragmatic mother-in-law, Maria Thins (Judy Parfitt), sees Griet as useful to Vermeer’s career.

Vermeer’s rich patron, Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), notices Griet on a visit to the Vermeer household and asks the painter if he will give her up to work in his own house, a situation which ruined a previous girl. Vermeer refuses, but accepts a commission to paint a portrait of Griet for Van Ruijven.

As Vermeer secretly works on the eponymous painting, Catharina cannot help but notice something is amiss and her growing jealousy of Griet becomes apparent. As Griet deals with her growing fascination with Vermeer and his talent, she has to fend off Van Ruijven’s attempt to rape her. Soon afterwards, Catharina’s mother summons Griet, hands over her daughter’s pearl earrings, and instructs Griet to finish the painting while Catharina is away for the day. At the final painting session Vermeer pierces Griet’s earlobe so she can wear one of the pearl earrings for the portrait; she then runs to Pieter to be consoled. They caress and make love in a barn. Afterwards, Pieter proposes marriage, but she shakes her head and leaves. She then returns the earrings to Catharina’s mother.

Catharina discovers that Griet used her earrings, accuses her mother of complicity, and demands Vermeer show her the painting of Griet. Heartbroken that Vermeer does not consider her worthy of being painted because she “doesn’t understand,” Catharina tries but fails to destroy the painting, then banishes Griet from the house forever. Vermeer does not object, and Griet leaves the house in shock. Later, Griet is visited by the cook from the house, who comes bearing a gift: a sealed packet containing the blue headscarf she wore in the painting, wrapped around Catharina’s pearl earrings.

Image result for girl with a pearl earring filmJohannson’s performance commands the film, although she is seldom required to speak and rarely asked what she might be thinking. Parfitt as the true power in the Vermeer household offers the other stellar performance, while Firth’s dazzling charm from other films is sublimated to his character’s artistic temperament. Of course, the greatest compliment that can be paid to first time director Peter Webber is that he has crafted this film with the same care that Vermeer used in painting his own canvases.

REVIEW: THE KING’S SPEECH

CAST

Colin Firth (Love Actually)
Helena Bonham Carter (Alice In Wonderland)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Geoffrey Rush (Quills)
Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow)
Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Claire Bloom (The Haunting)
Timothy Spell (Sweeney Todd)
Robert Portal (The Iron Lady)
Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, stammers through his speech closing the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium. The Duke has given up hope of a cure, but his wife Elizabeth persuades him to see Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist living in London. During their first session, Logue insists on being called Lionel by his patient and on breaching royal etiquette by calling the Prince “Bertie”, a name used only by his family. When the Duke decides Logue’s treatment is unsuitable, Logue bets him that he can recite Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy without trouble and distracts him by playing music through headphones while recording his performance on an acetate record. Prince Albert leaves in anger but Logue offers him the recording as a keepsake.

After King George V makes his 1934 Christmas radio address, he explains to his son the importance of broadcasting to a modern monarchy and demands that Albert train himself, starting with a reading of his father’s speech. His attempt to do so is a failure. Later, the Duke plays Logue’s recording and hears himself reciting unhesitatingly. He therefore returns to Logue, where he and his wife both insist that Logue focus only on physical exercises, not therapy. Logue teaches his patient muscle relaxation and breath control but continues to probe gently and persistently at the psychological roots of the stutter. Albert eventually reveals some of the pressures of his childhood and the two men start to become friends. With George V’s death in 1936, his eldest son David ascends the throne as King Edward VIII, but causes a constitutional crisis with his determination to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite divorcée who is still legally married to her second husband. It is pointed out that Edward, as head of the Church of England, cannot marry her, even if she receives her second divorce, because both her previous husbands are alive.
At his next session, Albert expresses his frustration that while his speech has improved when talking to most people, he still stammers when talking to his own brother and reveals the extent of Edward VIII’s folly with Simpson. When Logue insists that Albert could be a good king instead, the latter labels such a suggestion as treason and dismisses Logue. When King Edward decides to abdicate in order to marry Simpson, Albert reluctantly succeeds as King George VI. The new king and queen visit Logue to make up the quarrel, startling Mrs. Logue, who was unaware that the new King had been her husband’s patient.
During preparations for his coronation in Westminster Abbey, George learns that Logue has no formal qualifications. When confronted, Logue explains how he was asked to help shell-shocked Australian soldiers returning from The Great War. Since George remains unconvinced of his own fitness for the throne, Logue sits in King Edward’s Chair and dismisses the underlying Stone of Scone as a trifle. Goaded by Logue’s seeming disrespect, the King surprises himself with his own sudden burst of outraged eloquence and allows Logue to rehearse him for the ceremony.
Upon Britain’s declaration of war with Nazi Germany in 1939, King George summons Logue to Buckingham Palace to prepare for his upcoming radio address to Britain and the Empire. Knowing the challenge that lies before him, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain are present to offer support. George and Logue are then left in the broadcasting room. He delivers his speech with Logue conducting him, but by end is speaking freely. Preparing to leave the room for the congratulations of those present in the palace, Logue mentions to the King that he still had difficulty enunciating ‘w’ and the King jokes back, “I had to leave something in or no one would have believed it was me”.  After the King and his family step onto the balcony of the palace and are applauded by the crowd, a title card explains that Logue was always present at King George VI’s speeches during the war and that they remained friends for the rest of their lives.
I enjoyed watching this more than I thought I would. It’s respectful but truthful in its content and subject and gives an interesting insight into the miseries of stuttering. On the other hand the pace of the film was never impaired by what could have been unexciting content. It was lively and maintained interest throughout.

 

 

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: LOVE ACTUALLY

CAST
Hugh Grant (About a Boy)
Martine McCutcheon (Eastenders)
Liam Neeson (Batman begins)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Sienna Guillory (Resiendet Evil 2)
Emma Thompson (junior)
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity)
Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead)
Keira Knightley (King Arthur)
Laura Linney (The Truman Show)
Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones)
Alan Rickman (Dogma)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Billy Bob Thornton (Eagle Eye)
Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English)
January Jones (X-Men: First Class)
Elisha Cuthbert (24)
The film begins with a voiceover from David (Hugh Grant) commenting that whenever he gets gloomy with the state of the world he thinks about the arrivals terminal at Heathrow Airport, and the pure uncomplicated love felt as friends and families welcome their arriving loved ones. David’s voiceover also relates that all the messages left by the people who died on the 9/11 planes were messages of love and not hate. The film then tells the ‘love stories’ of many people:
Billy Mack and Joe
With the help of his longtime manager Joe (Gregor Fisher), rock and roll legend Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas variation of The Troggs’ classic hit “Love Is All Around”. Although he thinks the record is terrible, Mack promotes the release in the hope it will become the Christmas number one single. The song does go to number one; after briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy discerns that Joe is in need of affection and suggests that he and Joe celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn.
Juliet, Peter, and Mark
Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) get married in a lovely ceremony orchestrated and videotaped by Mark (Andrew Lincoln), the best man. He promises no funny business on their wedding day, but as they walk down the aisle as husband and wife, a singer, choir and band appear performing “All You Need Is Love”. Both Juliet and Peter believe that Mark dislikes her to the point that, when she has a favour to ask, Peter warns his best friend to be nice. Mark avoids seeing her so he will not have to show her his taped version of her wedding, but she stops by one day with a snack hoping to get him to warm to her. She confesses that she knows they are not close, but asks him to give her a chance. When asked to show her the tape, he feigns ignorance of where it is, but Juliet quickly finds it after only a brief search. She pops it in and at first is happy to see a decent shot of her in her wedding dress as the professionals messed theirs up. As the video continues, she sees it’s focused only on her and it causes her to stop talking. Left in an uncomfortable silence, Mark can only blurt out that he acts that way for ‘self-preservation’ before running out and leaving her alone. On Christmas Eve, the doorbell rings at Juliet and Peter’s house. She runs down and opens the door, only to find Mark, carrying a boom box playing Christmas songs and large cue cards. The first one tells her to tell her husband that it’s carol singers. One by one, the cards confess his love for her. Then he walks away. Juliet runs after him to give him a quick, innocent kiss and runs back inside.
Jamie and Aurélia
Writer Jamie (Colin Firth) is pushed to Juliet and Peter’s wedding by his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) as she feigns illness. He returns between the ceremony and the reception to check on her. Finding his brother there, at first he believes his explanation, but the reality is revealed when she yells down to his brother that she wants to have sex a few more times before Jamie comes back. Crushed by this, Jamie withdraws to his French cottage where he meets Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) who speaks only her native tongue. Despite their inability to communicate, they have similar personalities and become attached to each other. When Jamie returns to England, he realises he is in love with Aurélia and begins learning Portuguese. He returns to France to find her and ends up walking through town, gathering people as they walk to her job at a restaurant. In his broken Portuguese he declares his love for her and proposes. She responds, “Thank you. That will be nice. Yes is being my answer” in broken English as the crowd erupts in applause.
Harry, Karen, and Mia
Harry (Alan Rickman) is the managing director of a design agency; Mia (Heike Makatsch) is his new secretary. Harry is comfortably married to his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson), who stays home to raise their children. Harry becomes increasingly aroused by Mia’s overtly sexual comments and actions at the office and does nothing to dissuade her. At the company Christmas party held at Mark’s gallery, he not only inquires if Mark is her boyfriend, but dances closely with her. While at the shops, he calls Mia to find out what she wants for Christmas and ends up almost caught by his wife purchasing an expensive necklace from the jewellery department thanks to the salesman Rufus (Rowan Atkinson). Later on, Karen discovers the necklace in Harry’s coat pocket and happily assumes it is a gift for her. When he hands her a similarly shaped box to open on Christmas Eve, she is heartbroken to find it is a Joni Mitchell CD instead and struggles to hide her pain from her husband and children. She realises that the necklace was for someone else and asks him what he would do if he was her and if the supposed affair is just sex or more than sex (love). When he sees the harm he’s done to his wife, he is truly sorry and calls himself a fool. She responds that not only has he made a mockery of their marriage but of her and the way she chose to live her life.
David and Natalie
Karen’s brother, David (Hugh Grant), is the recently elected Prime Minister. Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is a new junior member of the household staff at 10 Downing Street and from the moment they meet, there is a spark that David continuously admonishes himself for. One day, while meeting with the U.S. President (Billy Bob Thornton), they run into Natalie and the president makes some inappropriate comments to David about Natalie’s body. Later, David walks in on Natalie serving tea and biscuits to the president, and it appears that something untoward is happening. Natalie seems ashamed, but the President has a sly grin on his face. Due to this, when he gives his political speech, David is uncharacteristically assertive while taking a stand against the President’s intimidating policies. Finding that his relationship with Natalie has become strained and a distraction, David has her moved to another job. However, he is spurred to action on Christmas Eve when he finds a Christmas card from Natalie declaring that she is his and no one else’s. After a hilarious door to door search of her street, he comes across Mia, who informs him that Natalie lives next door. The entire family is on their way out the door to a multi-school Christmas play and he offers to drive them so he can talk to her. After Natalie sneaks him in to the school, he runs into his heartbroken sister who believes he is there for his niece and nephew. As the two try to keep from being seen and watch the show from backstage, they finally kiss. All their hiding was for nothing because as the curtain rises, they are seen kissing by everyone.
Daniel, Sam, Joanna, and Carol
Daniel (Liam Neeson), Karen’s friend, mourns the recent death of his wife Joanna, as he tries to raise his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) alone. Sam has fallen for an American classmate, also named Joanna (Olivia Olson), and, after discussion with his stepfather, decides to learn the drums so that he can accompany her in the big finale for their school’s Christmas pageant (the same one that Natalie’s nephew and Karen and Harry’s children are in). After Sam feels that he missed his chance to make an impression on her, Daniel convinces Sam that he must go catch Joanna, who is returning to the US, at the airport that night and show her how he feels, lest he regret it for his whole life. Sam runs away from the airport security and says hi to Joanna, who then kisses him on the cheek. Meanwhile, Daniel, who previously mentioned admiring supermodel Claudia Schiffer, meets Carol, played by Schiffer, the parent of another of Sam’s school mates.
Sarah, Karl, and Michael
Sarah (Laura Linney) first appears at Juliet and Peter’s wedding, sitting next to her friend Jamie. She is an American who works at Harry’s graphic design company and has been in love for years with the company’s creative director, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). For unknown reasons they admire one another from afar, but neither is willing to make the first move. They finally connect at the Christmas party and he drives her home. They kiss but before more could occur, they are interrupted by her mentally ill brother, Michael, phoning from his residence in a mental care facility. Sarah and Karl’s evening tryst is aborted and Karl leaves. On Christmas Eve both are working late and, when Karl wishes her good night, he tries to say more but cannot and only wishes her Merry Christmas. As he leaves, Michael phones and she spends the night with him, sharing her Christmas scarf.
Colin, Tony, and the American girls
After several blunders attempting to woo various English women, including Mia and Nancy (Julia Davis), the caterer at Juliet and Peter’s wedding, Colin Frissell (Kris Marshall) informs his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) he plans to go to America and find love there, convinced that his Britishness will be an asset to him in a foreign country. Landing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Colin meets Stacey (Ivana Miličević), Jeannie (January Jones), and Carol-Anne (Elisha Cuthbert), three stunningly attractive women who fall for his Basildon accent and invite him to stay at their home, where they are joined by roommate Harriet (Shannon Elizabeth).
John and Judy
John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are professional body doubles for films. They meet for the sex scenes in a film for which Tony is a production assistant. John tells Judy that “It is nice to have someone [he] can just chat to.” While the two are perfectly comfortable being naked and simulating sex on-set, they are shy and tentative off-set. Carefully pursuing a relationship, they attend the Christmas pageant (involving David and Natalie, Harry and Karen’s children, Daniel and Sam, et al.) at the local school with John’s brother.
Rufus
Rufus, played by Rowan Atkinson, is the jewellery salesman, whose obsessive attention to gift-wrapping nearly results in Harry being caught buying a necklace for Mia by Karen. Also, it is his distraction of staff at the airport which allows Sam to sneak through to see Joanna. In the director and cast commentary, it is revealed that Rufus was originally supposed to be a Christmas angel; however, this was dropped from the final script.
Epilogue
The epilogue is set one month later; the relationships of the characters have continued to evolve. Billy arrives with a gorgeous groupie in tow, and confirms to Joe that his hit song has launched his successful comeback. Juliet, Peter, and Mark arrive together to meet Jamie and his new bride, Aurélia. Karen and the kids greet Harry, but Karen’s reaction suggests that they are struggling to move past his indiscretion. Sam greets Joanna, who has returned with her mother from America, and Daniel is joined by his new girlfriend Carol and her son. Newlyweds John and Judy, heading off to their honeymoon, run into Tony who is awaiting Colin as he returns from America. Colin returns with the gorgeous Harriet and her sister Carla (Denise Richards) who greets Tony with a hug and a kiss. Natalie aggressively welcomes David back from his flight in view of the press, indicating that their relationship is now public. These scenes dissolve into footage of actual arrivals at Heathrow Airport, as the screen is divided into an increasing number of smaller segments which form the shape of a heart, as The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” plays on.
the film is a bit over the top, a bit exaggerated, but it still works perfectly, has the perfect balance of humour and seriousness, and is one that I would see again