There is no summarizing this movie. It's a series of vignettes featuring dozens of players held together by Hugh Grant's opening voiceover about how, if you look for it, "love, actually, is all around." Curtis leaves no variety of love untouched: There's newlywed love, puppy love, sibling love, unrequited love, adulterous love, paternal love, even the heretofore unexamined love between an aging rock star (gleefully played by Bill Nighy) and his overweight manager. All it lacks is Courtney Love.
What it doesn't lack is a high-quality cast guaranteed to send my mother to the cineplex on opening day: Grant, Liam Neeson as a widower, Colin Firth as a cuckold, Alan Rickman as a would-be adulterer, Emma Thompson as a put-upon mom, and Laura Linney as a put-upon sister. Curtis has also stacked his movie with more inexplicable cameos (hello, Shannon Elizabeth) than a Kevin Smith film.
If the film has a star, it's Grant, but only because he's given the most powerful position: prime minister of England, a sort of hipper, more handsome Tony Blair who dances around 10 Downing Street to the Pointer Sisters' "Jump (For My Love)" like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. (It makes you wish Aaron Sorkin had thought of it first for Martin Sheen.) Really, he's just Hugh Grant -- boyishly tousled, goofily tongue-tied around women he fancies.
Curtis, a stickler for happy endings and middles and beginnings, does nothing to damage his reputation as a maker of feel-grand films. Not even revelations of adultery spark arguments. In one scene, Firth's Jamie comes home early from a wedding to discover his brother sleeping with his girlfriend; the next time we see Jamie, he's in a countryside cottage being introduced to the cleaning woman with whom he will, naturally, fall in love.
Karen (Emma Thompson), the beleaguered wife of Rickman's smarmy Harry and sister to Grant's P.M., exhibits only slightly more emotion when she discovers that her husband has given a gold necklace to his sultry secretary. She goes into her room, cries a bit, then takes the family to a Christmas Eve pageant, where most of the cast gathers for one of two happy endings. (Curtis includes one should-be finale, then an alternate version that wraps things up at Heathrow Airport with a holiday bow.) This will make a fortune. My mother alone will see it three times.