Favorite Fictional Characters, #354: The Sixth Day of Christmas: David
I get it. There are people who despise Love Actually. There are those who find it treacly or shallow or trite. There are those who take take issue with how love is depicted or interpreted. I will not tell these people they are wrong. I will instead encourage them to simmer down and enjoy the occasional cinematic pop tart. It won't ruin your dinner, honest. And while we might not be talking about Citizen Kane here, there's a lot to enjoy. You've got Laura Linney at her most adorably tragic. Liam Neeson not killing anyone (including somehow his snotty stepson - you know, Jojen Reed). Proto-Bilbo. Alan Rickman playing a cad. Bill Nighy chewing up the scenery as an eroding rock god. Perhaps most notably, Emma Thompson in one of the most affecting scenes of her career, wordlessly inhabiting determined despair to the haunting refrains of Joni Mitchell. Now, I've never been a fan of the wimpy British beta-male - usually Colin Firth makes me wonder if he's trying to win Best Actress (though I enjoy his frumpy, cuckolded writer here). Hugh Grant has always been the poster child of this simpering subgenre of actor, and I've never had much patience for it. But his bachelor Prime Minister, David, is fantastic.
He's a child, really, this somehow successful politician, this apologetic adolescent of an administrator. His unaffected, understated, boyish style is like Justin Trudeau on Xanax, a lower-wattage public servant in a bit over his head. And yet he's earnest, even when a sudden infatuation with a much-younger staffer derails his intention to give this whole leading-a-country thing his best shot. Is it creepy that he develops the hots for one of his underlings? Maybe a bit (though markedly less so over there than over here - remember, the Puritans fled Britain to journey across the sea and become Massholes). But recall that David does try to do the apparently right thing and stay away from Natalie. Of course, they do get together later (the door-to-door scene as he hunts her down is one of my favorites). His best scene, though, comes during his confrontation with Billy Bob Thornton's American President (an aside - I used to find that character only marginally believable; that margin has expanded in recent months). David reveals a bit more steel in his backbone than previously suspected, though we're left to wonder how much of that is patriotic and how much is possessive. Either way, it leads to his romping about 10 Downing Street to the Pointer Sisters. I can tell you, as a former elected official myself, there are few enough moments when you feel like dancing, but when it does happen, it's pretty awesome.
So yeah, bag on the movie if that's your deal. Sarah and I have watched it on Christmas Eve more years than not in the last decade and a half. I like the soundtrack. I like the stories. And I'm not even sorry about it.