The critical beatdown "The Matrix Revolutions" is taking hasn't stopped fans from seeing it or the press from plastering the film's stars on magazine covers. But beyond the "Matrix" advertising onslaught and love-it-or-hate-it hubbub lies another movie that's flying into theaters this week slightly below the radar.
Completely devoid of bullet-time action, kung-fu fighting and nearly incomprehensible pseudo-philosophy, "Love Actually" is an unapologetically feel-good romantic comedy that reunites British bad boy Hugh Grant with filmmaker Richard Curtis, the screenwriter behind "Four Weddings and Funeral," "Notting Hill" and the adaptation of "Bridget Jones's Diary."
Since breaking out in the States in 1994 with "Funeral," Grant has found success with higher-profile films like "About a Boy" and "Two Weeks Notice." So why team up with Curtis for another go-round?
"It's pretty much the only stuff I can do, to be absolutely honest," Grant said recently, sitting next to the screenwriter and producer who has now added "director" to his resumé with their latest creative pairing. "I'm very limited as an actor, and I find that this suits me quite well. It is very well-written. And I am very queen-y about scripts and I think I have very high standards."
"Love Actually" is an ensemble movie set in England that follows various people and their near-misses and head-on collisions with romance around Christmastime, including Grant as a prime minister who develops a crush on one of his employees (don't worry, he's single). Grant concedes that many of his characters have been variations on a theme — shallow on the outside, with a heart of gold beneath — and said he was apprehensive about playing someone so nice this time around.
"That was my only concern," he said. "Although it was clearly a fun part to do, I just didn't want to be too perfect, both because it was such a difficult thing to bring off and be likeable without being nauseating. And also because I found that in my general life, girls preferred when I had a little bit of edge. So I spoke to Richard and said, 'Let's not just make him too fantastic.' "
"So you consider your films as a sort of dating agency?" Curtis chided.
"I consider you as a kind of dating agency," his star shot back.
Whether or not his all-around nice guy turn in "Love Actually" decreases Grant's prowess with the ladies is anyone's guess, but it should certainly give him points for courage in real life. After all, the film is opening the same week as the final installment in the "Matrix" trilogy and against another Christmas-themed comedy, Will Ferrell's "Elf." (Click for photos from "Elf.")
"Love Actually" is playing in select cities, much like "Just an American Boy" (a documentary about the controversy surrounding country singer Steve Earle's song about "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh) and the French flick "In My Skin."