Love actually


(as of 07/06/2014 at 18:55 UTC)

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Noted English screenwriter Richard Curtis makes his directorial bow with this romantic comedy that follows the dizzying foibles of no less than a dozen couples, featuring a cast that includes Hugh Grant as a bachelor British PM and Billy Bob Thornton as a disturbing hybrid of the worst of Clinton and Bush. Seemingly taking its lead from Bridget Jones's Diary and its sequel (both of which Curtis also wrote), Love's rich, eclectic collection of pop songs becomes something more than mere movie-soundtrack wallpaper. Indeed, tracks as disparate as Joni Mitchell's hauntingly autumnal remake of "Both Sides Now" and the Pointer Sisters' effusive '80s hit "Jump" function somewhere between supporting player and narrative Greek chorus. It's a mature, often introspective collection that mixes the expected chestnuts (the Beach Boys' evergreen "God Only Knows") and covers (Eva Cassidy's stately version of Christine McVie's "Songbird," an R&B-infused take of "All You Need Is Love" by Lynden David Hall) with standout work from Norah Jones (a torched-up "Turn Me On"), Texas (the Dusty Springfield-esque dramatics of "I'll See It Through"), and Wyclef Jean's joyous "Take Me As I Am." Underscoring the film's Christmas subtext are three holiday-themed bonus cuts by Otis Redding, Billy Mack (the film's resident rock star burnout, played by Bill Nighy), and Olivia Olson. --Jerry McCulley


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