Cynics may be sick, romantics will feel their spirits soar. Richard Curtis returns.
The writer responsible for the biggest British hits of the last ten years - Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary - directs this vibrant romantic comedy, blending ambition with good sense by filling the profuse parts of his multi-storied script with excellent, experienced actors, and rising young stars.
"BILL NIGHY IS BRILLIANT"
Ten stories intertwine, loosely connected by friends of friends, family and next-door-neighbours. There's the new, bachelor prime minister (Hugh Grant) falling for the teagirl (Martine McCutcheon); his sister (Emma Thompson) suspecting her husband (Alan Rickman) may stray; her mate (Liam Neeson) grieving over his wife's death; his stepson (Thomas Sangster) longing for a girl from school...
The writer (Colin Firth) heartbroken in France; his newlywed friends (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Keira Knightley) whose best man (Andrew Lincoln) acts oddly; their Yank friend (Laura Linney) who wants a beau in Blighty; the sex-starved Brit (Kris Marshall) heading to the sexed-up United States; his best mate's buddy (Martin Freeman) falling for a pornstar stand-in.
And bestriding it all, Bill Nighy is brilliant as a washed-up Rod Stewart-alike rock singer, whose coarse cover of the Four Weddings... theme song is climbing the charts towards a seasonal number one: "Christmas," he sings, "is all around."
"A SOFT FOCUS SHORT CUTS"
Inevitably, some strands are almost forgotten and actors underused. A soft focus Short Cuts, the movie lacks the layered fluency of Robert Altman's work - or the hard edge. But while there's enough treacle to turn a bee diabetic, it is not without raw emotional moments - with Thompson outstanding in a tear-duct tingling scene.
You can almost see Curtis pressing the emotional buttons, but he does it so well you won't care. Warm, bittersweet and hilarious, this is lovely, actually. Prepare to be smitten.