The plot lines of ‘Love Actually’ ranked from most to least disturbing

In Entertainment by Maggie Serota / December 25, 2014

Ten years ago, the Christmas-themed romantic dramedy “Love Actually” was released to a series of mixed reviews. As time went by, this movie was elevated to something of a modern Christmas classic despite all the unrealistic story lines, problematic balances of power between genders and reductionist portrayals of human relationships. In fact, even the story lines that are presented as inspirational and heart-warming come off as unsettling and disturbing.

How disturbing? I’m so glad you asked. Using the highly scientific Serota Scale, I’ve ranked the story lines of “Love Actually” from the most to least disturbing. How scientific is this scale? I developed it while wearing a white lab coat and sitting within six feet of some test tubes. I’ve also referred to each character by the actor’s name rather than the character’s name because calling these characters one-dimensional would be way too generous. In fact, knowing any of these character names without having to look them up might be a sign of mental illness.

9. Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon

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Hugh Grant is the new Prime Minister and Martine McCutcheon is the much younger servant whose job it is to fetch him tea. Or at least, it was her job to fetch his tea until he walked in on her getting sexually harassed by President Billy Bob Thornton and decided she needed to lose her job. In his fit of jealousy, he also takes an aggressive stance with President Billy Bob Thornton, and jeopardizes the relationship between the United States and Great Britain in the process.

Everything that is gross and inappropriate about the PM’s attraction to Martine McCutcheon’s character is summed up when Grant makes an off-color joke about who he needs to fuck to get a chocolate croissant right as McCutcheon wheels the dessert cart into the room. It’s presented as this touching moment of revelation paired with comic timing, but it just crassly highlights the problematic balance of power within this flirtation.

In addition to being sexist, Prime Minister Hugh Grant is a complete idiot. When he decides to try and win McCutcheon back, he doesn’t employ any personnel records or even his country’s vast intelligence resources to track her down. He just knocks on a bunch of doors until he finds her. Prime Minister Hugh Grant isn’t fit to lead a troupe of Cub Scouts on a hiking trip, let alone an entire nation.

Also, if this relationship isn’t troubling enough, brace yourself for the barrage of cruel fat jokes made towards Martine McCurcheon, who is maybe all of a size 8, tops.

Considering this movie is practically a who’s who of noteable British actors, it’s a shame Peter Capaldi wasn’t employed to give Prime Minister Hugh Grant the verbal ass kicking he so desperately needs.

8. Andrew Lincoln, Kiera Knightly and Chiwetel Ejiofor


Andrew Lincoln plays a guy who generally regards his best friend’s wife with something between icy indifference and outright contempt. His contempt is so flagrant that best friend’s wife Keira Knightly calls him out on it when she drops by his apartment to see the footage he filmed of her wedding. When she discovers that his wedding footage is mainly cut together images of her, the manipulative piano tinkling in the soundtrack let us know that she is touched because he is clearly in love with her. In reality, when stumbling on a surreptitiously filmed video for a man’s own private viewing, women usually tend to run the hell out of there before having to endure some kind of “it puts the lotion in the basket” scenario.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, Andrew Lincoln feels completely entitled to puke his feelings all over Keira Knightly with no concern for how they might complicate her life, especially since she just married his best friend.

Also, in the cue card scene, Lincoln used an image of a mummified corpse when making the grand romantic claim of how long he’ll love her. TILL DEATH. Who taught this guy how to flirt, Ed Gein?

The only reason this story-line isn’t ranked as the most disturbing is because, unlike the 10 Downing Street plot line, Andrew Lincoln’s misguided romantic gestures don’t actually compromise national security. They compromise all sense of decency and good taste, but not national security. So hey, he’s got that going for him.

7. Colin Firth and Sienna Guillory

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After getting cheated on, Colin Firth rebounds hard with his significantly younger housekeeper which is already kind of dicey given that he’s her employer. Now add the fact that they don’t actually speak the same language, so she has to communicate all of her hopes, dreams fears and desires through exaggerated facial expressions and bumbling pantomimes. The housekeeper is Portuguese, as opposed to Firth’s stodgy, British character, so this also hints as a certain exotification of the “other.” Also, in the film’s most blatant use of the male gaze trope, Firth realizes he’s in love with his housekeeper when she strips down to her underwear in order to jump into a lake and save the pages of the single copy of his magnum opus of a novel.

After a few weeks and a few rudimentary Portuguese lessons, Firth’s character decides that he needs to marry this woman. His need is so severe that it prompts him to bust out of his family Christmas gathering the moment he arrives causing his myriad nieces and nephews to lament “We hate Uncle Jamie.” Yeah, kids, you’re not the only ones.

We’re sure they’ll be happy until he learns enough Portuguese or she learns enough English to finally learn what an emotionally stunted man-child she hastily married.

6. Laura Linney and some guy who looks amazing in boxer briefs

Laura Linney is an American transplant working in Alan Rickman’s design firm. She’s also left to care for her developmentally disabled adult brother after her parents passed away. Watch as Laura Linney’s beleaguered character finally catches a break when she seduces her longstanding office crush. Then watch that guy walk right the hell out of her life when it becomes apparent that she’s more than the adoring admirer gazing longingly at him from across their open plan office. Cause fuck even trying to get close to a real person with real problems.

Also, good luck finding love if you have to care for a disabled relative. The implication here is that Linney’s loneliness is to be expected given the personal burden she has to carry, but maybe the real problem is that she took Alan Rickman’s shitty relationship advice.

5. Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson and Heike Makatsch

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Goddamn, does this movie love the questionable personal politics that come along with relationships between men in positions of power and their younger female subordinates.

In this storyline we get to watch Rickman passive aggressively play out his predictable mid-life crisis/oldest storyline in the book with his secretary in front of his wife and then watch Emma Thompson blame herself for his wandering eye because she committed the unforgivable sin of getting older and fitting into Pavarotti-sized clothes.

Oh, in case you weren’t sure who you were supposed to vilify in this scenario, Heike Makatsch’s wanton home wrecker character wears devil horns while dancing with Rickman at the company Christmas party. She’s just one of the many wonderfully written and developed female characters in this ensemble.

4. Liam Neeson and Thomas Sangster


There’s an enduring trope in film and television where the men who are actually in love with their wives happen to be also be grieving their deaths. The living wives tend to be shrews, shrill harpies, and in the case of Emma Thompson’s character, frumpy hausfrau who had the unmitigated gall to let themselves go.

Anyway, Liam Neeson plays another desperately heartbroken, grieving widower, which is actually quite painful to watch knowing how closely Neeson’s personal life is going to mirror this storyline nearly 6 years later.

Neeson’s character is left with full custody of his stepson and in his emotionally compromised state, gives the kid all kinds of terrible advice. Advice like “if you’re not a musician, become one as quickly as possible so that the girl you like will notice you” and “definitely chase a girl you’ve never had a conversation with down at the airport.”
Despite the sanctimonious way screenwriter Richard Curtis shoehorned 9/11into the movie’s opening voice over, Neeson doesn’t see fit to teach Thomas Sangster any respect for post-9/11 airport security regulations given how he cheer-leads the kid’s mad dash past the security guards.

Now, no one is saying that a child should be subjected to a strip search, but if there’s ever a kid who deserves to hear the cold slap of a latex glove against the palm of a customs agent’s wrist, it’s that one.

Maybe next time, Neeson will tell the kid to try being himself and if she doesn’t like him, go find someone who does. However, given this story line’s messed up trajectory, he’ll probably just help the kid become a vegan or a Scientologist if that’s what his crush is into.

Or maybe this kid will eventually give in to actually feeling the loss of his mother. According to the memorial service in the beginning of the movie, his mother has recently passed, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem too broken up about it.

3. Kris Marshall and The American Girls

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Kris Marshall does what people in 12 step programs call “pulling a geographic” where he hopes to improve his non-existent romantic prospects by traveling to a country where women fetishize the English accent. He’s not the first and he definitely won’t be the last to play this trump card. Any woman who has spent time on OKCupid or other assorted dating sites knows that UK transplants waste no time mentioning that they have an accent in their profile. Sometimes in all caps.

In this character’s case, his strategy works out and Marshall’s character arrives in Wisconsin’s icy tundra and falls into a hot girl pile-on. So, hooray? Former writer Gabe Delahaye summed this plot-line up well when he wrote “So in reality, it’s actually the least offensive of the unrealistic plot-lines because at least it admits its unrealistic. Everything else tries to hide this fact in layer upon layer of candy-cane scented barf.”

2. Billy Nighy and Gregor Fisher

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We’re really not sure why fictional rock legend Billy Mack couldn’t have just brought his manager to Elton John’s Christmas party. Sure, maybe two aging men getting drunk and watching porn together could be the heartwarming bonding experience this movie would have you believe, but it kind of just sounds like the on-deck circle to a double suicide.

Anyway, congratulations to the old man for sidestepping obscurity with a successful Troggs cover. Glenn Danzig recorded a Troggs cover for his forthcoming covers album, so maybe he’ll get to experience a similar career resurgence.

1. Martin Freeman and Joanna Page

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These two body doubles begin a charming and chaste romance while filming some kind of carnal fuck spree Skinemax erotic thriller. This is probably the only romance to blossom between two characters that are remotely likable. It’s too bad their plot line is essentially an underdeveloped afterthought.