American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Love Actually" is a belly-flop into the sea of romantic comedy. It contains about a dozen couples who are in love; that's an approximate figure because some of them fall out of love and others double up or change partners. There's also one hopeful soloist who believes that if he flies to Milwaukee and walks into a bar he'll find a friendly Wisconsin girl who thinks his British accent is so cute she'll want to sleep with him. This turns out to be true.
The movie is written and directed by Richard Curtis, the same man who wrote three landmarks in recent romantic comedy: "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill" and "Bridget Jones's Diary." His screenplay for "Love Actually" is bursting enough material for the next three. The movie's only flaw is also a virtue: It's jammed with characters, stories, warmth and laughs, until at times Curtis seems to be working from a checklist of obligatory movie love situations and doesn't want to leave anything out. At 129 minutes, it feels a little like a gourmet meal that turns into a hot-dog eating contest.
I could attempt to summarize the dozen (or so) love stories, but that way madness lies. Maybe I can back into the movie by observing the all-star gallery of dependable romantic comedy stars, led by Hugh Grant, and you know what? Little by little, a movie at a time, Grant has flowered into an absolutely splendid romantic comedian. He's getting to be one of those actors like Christopher Walken or William Macy where you smile when you see them on the screen. He has that Cary Grantish ability to seem bemused by his own charm, and so much self-confidence that he plays the British prime minister as if he took the role to be a good sport.
Emma Thompson plays his sister, with that wry way she has with normality, and Alan Rickman plays her potentially cheating husband with the air of a lawyer who hates to point out the escape clause he's just discovered. Laura Linney plays his assistant, who is shy to admit she loves her co-worker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), who is also shy to admit he loves her, and so you see how the stories go round and round.