Richard Curtis, author of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill,” tends toward family gyrations and quirky romantic lunacy. He also generally gets the best out of Hugh Grant. His debut as a writer-director is a disconnected but charming set of interlocking Christmastime vignettes about love’s splendors and complications.
There’s David (Grant), the single prime minister who’s falling for bumbling caterer Natalie (Martine McCucheon); David’s sister Karen (Emma Thompson) whose husband is agog over Mia; Karen’s recently-widowed friend Daniel (Liam Neeson), who has to give romantic advice to his daughter; Jamie (Colin Firth), a writer who’s moved from to France after being dumped and ends up falling madly in love with his Portuguese maid who speaks no English. Everthing’s sweet enough, even saccharine, which nearly puts Curtis on the wrong side of silliness.
But not so fast… The film’s rudder is Billy Mack, a foul-mouthed, rock ‘n’ roll has-been and former heroin addict who’s back on track after recording a Christmas song he intended as a parody but that all England has… fallen in love with, naturally. Bill Nighy’s gently cynical Billy Mack not only steals the movie but lightens the whole.
Curtis keeps his wit and kindness amid the hubbub while Grant has great fun as the timid prime minister (his American counterpart is Billy Bob Thornton, in a cameo).