“Wrong Actually”

This is my story for Miss Spoken’s October show, the theme of which was “Confessions”. As written, not delivered.

There are so many things to love about the movie Love Actually.

Love Actually is set in London, my favorite city in the world. The cast is a panoply of talented and attractive British actors like Emma Thompson and Colin Firth, people who, in this and other projects, have never failed to make me laugh or cry. It takes place during Christmas, the perfect season for a romantic comedy that is considered by many to be a modern holiday classic.

There are so many things to hate about the movie Love Actually.

Love Actually seems only to happen in a version of London that has virtually no people of color. The unfortunate cast which inexplicably contains both Denise Richards and Shannon Elizabeth is made to recite clumsy, maudlin dialogue from a script that should have been edited so characters are spared the indignity of having to say, with a straight face “All I want for Christmas… is you!” before having to make out with the short pudgy one from Sherlock.

It is a romantic comedy that is often neither romantic or funny and which, due to it’s lingering presence on Netflix, is inflicted upon holiday gatherings near and far when nobody is willing to pay for an iTunes rental of a holiday movie the family would actually enjoy, like The Santa Clause or Die Hard.

I love to talk about how much I hate, actually, Love Actually almost as much as I love to watch it. My hate watch of Love Actually has for me become an annual tradition, like fighting the crowds at Christkindlmarket for an overpriced mug of piping hot apple juice or lunging for the candy Santa throws into the audience for every December showing of White Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life at The Music Box.

I keep a list of the movie’s myriad sins, sortable by the order in which they appear in the story as well as by the weight of each offense. The contest to find the single most terrible thing in Love Actually is enjoyable but tough. How could I possibly decide among the following?

  • Mark, hopelessly in love with his best friend’s fiance, nevertheless plans a surprise performance of The Beatles’s “All You Need is Love” at their wedding and, when it goes off without a hitch, actually high-fives the priest
  • all of the unattractive, unflattering turtlenecks worn throughout the movie
  • everybody honestly thinking that Natalie, the winsome household assistant and (spoiler alert) love interest to the nation’s prime minister, is a fat person and therefore worthy of ridicule (but not love)
  • Billy Bob Thornton’s wig

But the real crime, the cardinal sin, of this movie is the belief that Christmas is the time for confessions. That dumb dumb Mark said as much when, at last, he revealed his love to his best friend’s wife.

“Just because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth.”

No, it isn’t, and no, you don’t.

Christmas is not the reason you may find yourself standing in the street outside your best friend’s house. Christmas isn’t to blame when you confront his wife with your feelings, which you have scrawled upon a stack of posterboard. It isn’t Christmas’s fault you are a creep with no boundaries and that you might be drunk while you are doing this.

“Just because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth.”

That’s not Christmas, that’s guilt. Any Catholic, or really, ANYBODY, could have told you that. But I’m going to make a bold statement and claim that Catholics are experts when it comes to inflicting guilt, and extracting confession.

Confession is a Sacrament of the Catholic Church, a sign of grace and a path to absolution for sinners who desire reconciliation. Reconciliation within themselves, with their loved ones, and with God, certainly. It can all be yours after a quick visit to your local parish.

Sit in a wooden box, make the Sign of the Cross, and simply say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been seven hours and fifteen days since my last confession.” Recite your sins, perform the penance as advised by the priest from his side of the partition in the confessional, then go away. Make it a regular thing, like paying your rent on time and pooping.

It is not a good idea to torture yourself by holding onto those feelings, keeping them until you are so emotionally constipated that you burst, getting your messy, possibly inappropriate emotions all over yourself and the unfortunate sucker who happens to be your victim. You may have been alone in committing the crime, but in your confession you’ve made it somebody else’s problem, too.

A less cynical, more gracious person would say, “Jasmine, first of all, I think you’re thinking about this movie way too much. Secondly, isn’t it better that, having confessed, this dude can move on with his life and even get a little help? Finally, what’s the harm in making Christmas a time of honesty and truth-telling in addition to the cider and the presents, riding the holiday train downtown and watching The Nutcracker and going to see the holiday trees at the MSI?”

Fine. Whatever. These are all good points. Especially the one about me watching this movie way too much.

I think honesty is overrated because people tend to wield it as a blunt tool, not as an instrument of clarity. Truth is often brutal, and rarely kind. I only get value from it when I trust the motivations of the person giving it to me.

And because I’m a contrary sort of person, I am sometimes offended by anyone deriving pleasure or satisfaction from telling me something they thought I should know. What are you actually giving me — a pony-shaped pinata full of candy and gift cards to Sephora? Or is it a Trojan horse full of Greeks about to murder me?

If I ruined Love Actually for you because it turns out it’s actually your favorite Christmas movie, then I suppose I owe you an apology. So here it is.










Note: I shortened the apology for the performance, but I did write it out on poster board and showed to the audience. They seemed to like it.