Love Actually in Concert: Film with Orchestra – Live Review – Hull Bonus Arena
By Roger Crow, December 2018
It’s a while since I’ve seen Richard Curtis’s all-star romcom. For a decade, Love Actually would be screened every Christmas in our house, an annual ritual like Elf and It’s A Wonderful Life. When it was first released on DVD, I watched all the extras and director/cast commentary. Years ago I also bought the soundtrack for my better half, but it never gets played these days. Other favourite films like La La Land, The Greatest Showman and A Star is Born stole its thunder, so seeing the whole thing again with an orchestra at Hull’s Bonus Arena is every bit as good as I hope for, and then some.
As a film nut, I’m delighted that the movie/orchestra experience isn’t just reserved for London, as much as I love the odd trip to the Albert Hall to geek out on such screenings. Love Actually is such a finely tuned screenplay, it’s easy to overlook Craig Armstrong’s score until that rousing finale. However, there’s such a wealth of goodies to enjoy before that third act pay-off.
Watching a few chords plucked on a guitar is every bit as powerful as the entire orchestra working their magic on a mostly captive audience. (One attendee next to us managed to spend most of the experience on social media, which seems like a strange/annoying way to spend a night at such a fabulous event).
Whether through soaring strings or heart-rending brass, Love Actually is a gem of a movie with a score every bit as magic. Watching Emma Thompson’s heart break as the (now much-missed) Alan Rickman falls for his alluring colleague is a masterclass in acting.
Due to 15 years vanishing in the blink of an eye, and the high production values, at one point it looks like the now ubiquitous Martin Freeman is going to leap from Joanna Page’s house to an ice rink in a seamless segue from film to those annoying mobile phone adverts. And then there’s the OTT nativity which has been ripped off by countless ad teams since. (No kiddie plugs jumping into walls here like a current ad, but the tone is just as cute/daft).
Love Actually’s success is the fact Curtis keeps so many plates spinning for the duration, and yes, it’s at times pure soap/sitcom, but it’s also his most successful film, not least because of that powerful score.
Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon’s chemistry is glorious, while it’s great to be reminded of Liam Neeson’s comedic skills in the days when he broke hearts instead of arms in assorted action thrillers. And Andrew Lincoln gives one of his best turns in those pre-zombie-bashing Walking Dead days.
I’d also forgotten Richard Hawley gave a superb turn as Grant’s PM associate, years before becoming a Corrie regular as Johnny Connor. Or that Laura Linney’s ripped office colleague Rodrigo Santoro played the bald bay guy in the 300 movies. That’s the joy of revisiting any ’old’ film. The chance to see stars-in-waiting and reflect on how well cast a movie like this is. And full marks to Bill Nighy (as always) for his terrific turn as fading rocker Billy Mack. A fantastic, twitchy performance, especially alongside Gregor Fisher.
I’ll admit I got something in my eye a few times. Maybe it was just dust, or the Comic Relief genius rebooting my cold, dead heart at the most magical time of the year. Either way, this is such a glorious present, I would happily experience the whole thing again in the future. And given the standing ovation and rapturous applause the orchestra received, I get the feeling I’m not the only one.
As I keep my fingers crossed for a few extra quid in my next pay packet, this is one Christmas Bonus that came early.