Many 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.”