Telling Off the Prez: “Love Actually”

Telling Off the Prez: “Love Actually”

Screen shot 2013-10-05 at 11.25.41 AMMany Amer­i­can friends of Britain (and, I trust vice-ver­sa) think the “Spe­cial Rela­tion­ship,” invent­ed by Churchill, tends nowa­days to work in only one direc­tion. I was remind­ed of this by an unlike­ly source: Hugh Grant, play­ing the British Prime Min­is­ter, in a ten-year-old comedy.

“Love Actu­al­ly” is a mul­ti­ple romance about ten dif­fer­ent love affairs going on simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in Lon­don, with a remark­able cast: Col­in Firth (“The King’s Speech”), Rowan Atkin­son (Mr. Bean, the mute com­ic), Emma Thomp­son (the Har­ry Pot­ter series). And Liam Nee­son, who for once isn’t killing the Ungod­ly but try­ing to be a good step-dad to his ten- year-old son, who is in love with an Amer­i­can 10-year-old. Quite a cast–not the least Mar­tin Free­man and Joan­na Page, who meet as body dou­bles for movie sex scenes. John says (while naked and sim­u­lat­ing sex): “it is nice to have some­one I can just chat to.” They fall for each oth­er and she takes him home and invites him in. He says, “Are you sure this is all right? I’ve nev­er done this before.”

In the midst of all this Prime Min­is­ter  Grant receives a vis­it from Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States (Bil­ly Bob Thorn­ton)— a real snarky piece of work, whom he catch­es try­ing to seduce Natal­ie (Mar­tine McK­utcheon), one of his aides. The Pres­i­dent tells Hugh he has an agen­da he plans to fol­low, what­ev­er Britain thinks. At the press con­fer­ence the Pres­i­dent mouths the usu­al plat­i­tudes about the Spe­cial Rela­tion­ship and Hugh tells him off in pub­lic. Nat­u­ral­ly, Churchill gets a men­tion. This is a ter­rif­ic scene for those of us who think the “spe­cial rela­tion­ship” tends often to be a one-way street.

And of course the PM gets the girl. When she sends him a Christ­mas card pro­fess­ing her love, he calls for his car and heads for her street in Wandsworth (“the dodgy end”) where he goes door to door ask­ing if Natal­ie lives there. The reac­tions of the res­i­dents are price­less. A woman says, “Aren’t you the Prime Min­is­ter?” Hugh replies: “Yes I am–sorry for all the cock-ups, my cab­i­net is absolute crap, we’ll try to do bet­ter next year.”

He finds Natal­ie going out to a kids’ Chirst­mas play; he takes her whole fam­i­ly over in his Jaguar and its police escort, but hides with Natal­ie back­stage. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the cur­tain pulls back at the end and they’re caught: “Too late, just smile and wave.”

By the way, a tip of the hat to Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron, who said sim­i­lar things, though not with Hugh Grant’s panache.

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