Love, Actually: To Win Some or Learn Some

Netflix Suggested Viewing: Christmas Edition

To me, all the emotions that come along with being in love are like a buffet. The pictures and advertisements are enticing, the variety is amazing, and the price seems more than worth it but the reality is something else entirely. It’s all hot lamps and pissed off cooks, it’s strangers picking through piles of entrees, breathing and sneezing and coughing and poking at piles of rehydrated foodstuffs in the hopes of somehow rearranging its molecular make up into something approaching appetizing. In the end, you just grab a slice or two of what pizza is left after some prickish teenager has snatched up the pieces with the most pepperoni. And you end up regretting the trip entirely, because, ultimately, you went to a damn buffet expecting some kind of Arthurian feast from the staff at Luby’s. Maybe I’ve gotten off topic. The point is, it’s a confusing, convoluted mess with absolutely great intentions and now I can’t remember if I’m talking about the movie anymore. 

I resent the idea that romantic comedies are only for women. Maybe I’m an idealist but I’d like to meet and spend my life with someone who is more than just sexually attractive and tolerant of my vices, I really think there is more to it than that. There is an argument that because there are six billion people on the planet it is stupid to think that there is just one person out there for everyone. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. There are absolutely going to be a few that are close enough, that are compatible enough that there is no discernible difference between soulmate and good match. But, in reality, no one is going to meet all six billion people. You’re going to meet a few thousand, give or take, and that’s the population that counts in your particular story. It’s a movie like Love, Actually that takes a swing at a buffet, a variety of different experiences with love in order to describe something that is for all intents and purposes, indescribable. Not because it is nebulous and undefinable, but because it is a unique experience to each and every person that encounters it. It is certainly possible to relate and find commonality and, if anything, it’s absolutely one of the most important qualities a person can possess but I flinch at the phrase ‘I know exactly what you’re going through’. You don’t, but you can have an idea.

The result, in this film anyway, is emotional fast food. Sweet, savory, cloying, satisfying in the moment, but with no real nutritional value. If anything, it’s deceptive and misleading to tell a story where everything works out and that the hardest thing about love is finding it. It’s not only about finding it or failing it or falling into it. It’s also about the day to day, the texts, the gestures, the accommodations made for that one person, and all the ways that someone else, some crazy stranger who likes the way you smell and enjoys the boring stories about your day, can make life into something else entirely, something that is more than the sum of its parts.

My constant experience with Christmas is as a guest in spite of the best efforts of the fine people in my life. This and bars. So suffice it to say I take both a cynical and unrealistically romanticized notion into the experience. Everyone has something to complain about around the holidays, I feel like it’s almost part of the tradition but as an accustomed outsider, all I can think is that it really can’t be that bad. Inconvenient, expensive, exhausting, certainly but the alternative is something else entirely, a feeling that is hard to describe. Being a source of both joy and misery, Christmas makes a pleasant backdrop for an ensemble romantic comedy, it’s a nice excuse for characters to make grand gestures and be extraordinarily sentimental. This really can be a magical time of the year if you are very lucky and have someone to share it with. It deserves to be redeemed after the mystery and wonder of childhood evaporates into a cynical mass marketed exercise in Capitalism, into a lemming-like perfunctory reaction to lights and snow that says spend while throwing you non-stop reruns of A Christmas Story. That’s the cynicism talking.

I do have a romantic notion of Christmas, based on the times I’ve spent it in the company of loved ones. Which is what it is all about, really. Love and family. The truth is, I’ve spent some holidays by myself not because I was really alone but because I chose to be. Because I have an unrealistic expectation of how the holiday should be spent. Because I watch movies like Love, Actually. But the good thing about family is that you’re not allowed to make that choice to be alone and that’s a nice thing, life is too short and these people will not be around forever. And that’s the great thing about falling in love: it’s all about creating family where there wasn’t one before. So this is a fun movie, I’m glad I watched it, even though it left me a little nauseous afterward, like a rich dessert or a poorly made martini. I laughed pretty often, teared up once or twice. Or three times. And I did some thinking, which, according to the late Jimmy V, is what a good day is all about (sports reference, manliness REDEEMED). Maybe it’s not a perfect movie, maybe it’s only ever going to be the type of movie that women want to experience and maybe Love, Actually is a little bit stupid from time to time. But, then again, so is the real thing on occasion.

I hope everyone gets home safe, I hope everyone sees the one they need to see, I hope the holidays are as unrealistically amazing as they ought to be. I hope everyone gets a little something, even if it’s an unexpected but badly needed pairs of socks (I am grateful, brother) . All on the night after what was apparently the longest, darkest night in half a millenia, it’s all brighter from here on out. Cheers.

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