1. Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson
Emma and Alan are a Joni Mitchell-discussing married couple whose happy world is rocked by Alan’s flirtation with his secretary. First things first: the secretary is laughably evil. She literally wears a devil costume in the movie, as if you are rather dim and can’t tell which person you’re supposed to be rooting for. She also says the phrase, “Dark corners for doing … dark deeds,” which makes me want to throw up in my mouth. However, this is the most realistic and tragic couple of the movie. Emma’s acting is incredible, especially her crying in the bedroom to the longest, slowest, raspiest Joni version of “Both Sides Now.” And she’s Liam Neeson’s best friend. “No one’s going to shag you if you cry all the time,” she says. Comedy gold!
2. Bill Nighy and his manager
Thank you, Love Actually, for having the decency to put in a storyline about friendship. Otherwise, single people would just cry themselves to sleep, with maybe the exception of watching Rick from The Walking Dead as the worst best friend on Earth. Anyway, this storyline about an aging rock star and his fat manager is delightful. Quoth Bill Nighy, “It’s a terrible, terrible mistake, Chubs, but you turned out to be the fucking love of my life.” It’s such a tender portrait of solid, unbending, platonic love. And Bill Nighy’s character is easily the most entertaining part of the movie. If you really love Christmas, come on and let it snow.
3. Colin and the American girls
Best plotline ever, in any movie ever made. I’m not counting it higher because it’s not as touching as some of the others. Colin, a guy who gives up on English girls and flies to Wisconsin to get laid, is the perfect character. I have nothing bad to say about him. The whole movie is setting him up for a fall, and the wonderful thing is that it never happens. He flies into Milwaukee, sex capital of the United States. He goes to a bar and meets three supermodels, who promptly have sex with him. It’s like all the American Pie movies abridged to 10 minutes. God I love it. Wisconsin babes!
4. Awkward body-double couple
I’m sure they have names, but if I don’t know them, nobody knows them. This couple meets on set as sexual body doubles. One is the guy from The Hobbit. There is little to dislike about this plotline. They have a pretty normal, awkward courtship, and the scenes of them talking about traffic as they have fake-sex are amazing. The only thing that truly ruins this match is when the girl says at the end, “All I want for Christmas … is you!” You had to go there. You had to say it.
5. Liam Neeson and his stepson
Hooray, another storyline about non-romantic love! I do not give half a shit about the romance between Liam Neeson’s son and his classmate, because 1) they’re kids and 2) I honestly hate the son, he looks like an alien and says ridiculous things like, “Everyone worships her because she’s heaven.” However, I’m going to focus on Liam Neeson here, and the terrible sadness I feel when I watch the scene of his wife’s funeral and realize that his real wife died and he actually had to go through that. His speech at the funeral breaks my goddamn heart. Please play “Bye Bye Baby” at my funeral, followed by the entirety of Love Actually.
6. Hugh Grant and his ‘fat’ secretary
You’re welcome, Hugh Grant. Six is not a bad ranking. In this plotline, Hugh Grant resumes his actual job as prime minister of England, which he left to pursue acting. There are a couple of adorable things in this plotline, including a scene where Hugh Grant and his driver sing Christmas carols to three little girls. If you don’t find it cute, congratulations, you are a sociopath. Some problems, though: First, could we stop making jokes about how fat the love interest is? Even at the end, Hugh Grant is like, “God, you weigh a lot.” If you’re going to do that, I want the girl to weigh at least 300 lbs. There are some misunderstandings involving the president of the United States — aren’t there always? — and eventually Hugh and fattie kiss on stage at a nativity play. Also, Hugh Grant demonstrates that “foreign policy” means “making a rousing speech about Harry Potter and David Beckham.”
7. Laura Linney and the art of self-sacrifice
Laura Linney is in love with dreamy, ambiguously-foreign Carl from her workplace, but their attempts to get together are stymied by her crazy brother who calls all the time. This one is terribly sad and hilarious to me. I really wish that Laura Linney’s brother murdered her at the end. They need at least one plotline where love actually results in murder. As Carl says in his only-apparent-halfway-through-the-movie accent, “Life is full of … interruptions and … complications.” So true, Carl.
Anyway, the lesson of this plotline is: Sometimes love actually means throwing away a relationship because your brother’s mental health facility does a really bad job preventing him from calling you. Maybe I’m being insensitive, but can’t she talk to them about that? Then again, it’s pretty cute at the end when they put Santa hats on each other at the mental hospital. They just don’t show you two weeks later, when Laura Linney dies alone in her apartment and is eaten by cats.
8. Colin Firth and the Portuguese girl
Colin Firth’s plotline starts with his brother and his girlfriend banging each other. That sucks, but it means we get to experience the most obvious explanatory line in all of cinema: “Come on, big boy, I’m naked and I want you at least twice before Jamie gets home!” Look at that exposition. We learn: Colin’s brother has a big penis. She is naked. She wants to have sex with him more than once. They cannot have sex when Jamie is home. That is stellar writing.
Anyway, so Colin Firth falls in love with a Portuguese girl who can’t speak English. I shouldn’t have to explain that this makes very little sense. Thankfully, they can communicate because they know each other’s hearts so well that every sentence they say corresponds perfectly. So they have about half a conversation, and then Colin Firth flies to Portugal to ask her father permission to marry her. His response: “Who? Sure!” Then they move back to England (uprooting her life, I assume, but who cares), where he jokes about her English skills. Meanwhile, Colin Firth has become the ambassador to Portugal.
9. Keira Knightley and the power of friendship.
The lesson of this plotline: If you are in love with your best friend’s wife, kind of try to hide it, but actually take a lot of weird videos of her and then show up at her door to confess your love. This makes you a good friend and a strong person. I mainly hate this plotline because of Keira Knightley, who literally utters the line, “I look quite pretty, don’t I?” Yes, it’s almost as if you could be a professional actress. Then she discovers that her husband’s best friend is in love with her by accidentally watching a video that he clearly masturbates to. Like, what else is that video for?
You would think he might drop the subject and never mention it again, but instead he gets a bunch of poster boards and tells her that he loves her, while playing Christmas carols to make sure his best friend doesn’t suspect. “To me, you are perfect, and my wasted heart will love you until you look like [a disgusting mummy].” This appeals to the worst person in all of us, who wants to be told, “I will never, ever, ever love anyone except you, even though you will never love me back.” I would like to see a crossover with The Walking Dead, where he plays Rick and encounters Keira Knightley as a zombie. Now you have to fulfill your promise, sad sack! Do you still love her?!