UNPOPULAR OPINION: The Keira Knightley "To Me You Are Perfect" Scene In "Love Actually" Is Not Romantic
It's Christmas time, aka that time of year when I see a million Facebook statuses about "Love Actually." It's fine. I get it. I enjoy that movie. I love Rickman's voice and Hugh Grant's sweet moves and Bill Nighy's existence. This year also marks the movie's ten-year anniversary. A DECADE. Did you know that the adorable drumming orphan is now on Game of Thrones?
So in honor of this momentous anniversary, I am going to come clean and share some real feelings with you:
I do not like the Juliet-Peter-Mark love triangle plot (aka the one with Keira Knightley). In fact, I strongly dislike it and find it awkward and not really romantic.
In case you have somehow avoided this movie for the last decade, please see Wikipedia to catch up on my least favorite plot line.
Since the movie's release in 2003, I have heard a lot of ladies wax poetic about how romantic the "carol singers/to me you are perfect" scene is. “Wouldn't it be amazing if someone did that for you?” “Isn't it so sweet?” I don’t know? Is it sweet? Is it sweet to swoop into a seemingly happy marriage and shake things up? I think it’s a little rude.
But I take issue with the plot from the beginning. The whole thing is driven by the fact that Mark is madly in love with Juliet even though he has never really spent any time with her, avoids her, and is in general kind of a dick to her. How do you fall in love with someone without having spent any time with them? I mean she is very pretty and wears quirky hats with aplomb, but this smacks more of infatuation than love and infatuation is annoying.
And then there is the video. The wedding video comprised solely of footage of the bride. To be fair, if I came upon a video of my wedding that was just me and my face, I probably wouldn't notice at first. I’d think “that’s about right” because I am a terrible person and a little obsessed with myself. But after it dawned on me that the best man didn't film the groom at all, my conclusion would not be “this man is in love with me,” it would be “this man wants to wear me like a glove.” I would drop the banoffee pie (which sounds delicious by the way) and moonwalk out the door.
Then there is the note card scene. A few logistical flaws grab my attention. First, how did he know that it would be Juliet and not Peter who answered the door? Does Peter never answer the door? Is it established in their household that door answering is a “wifely duty”? It’s pretty 50/50 in my house, but maybe we’re progressive that way. What if Juliet was pooping, forcing Peter to let Mark in? “Hey man, yeah Juliet had some weird take-out, she’ll be in there a while. What’s this art project in your hand?”
It could all go so wrong so quickly.
Also, it’s just a dick move. I understand the need to confess your feelings, but I really take issue with the way he goes about it. If I were Mark I would stop wearing such weird turtlenecks, and once that was sorted, I would invite Juliet to coffee to explain the weird video thing. It pretty much has to be explained if Peter’s friendship with Mark can continue. At coffee, I would be like “Yes, I inexplicably fell in love with you, and I tried to avoid you for that whole “self-preservation” thing. Sorry you saw that video, your wedding was a weird time for me because of my feelings. Hopefully we can put this behind us. I've started dating again.”
Or something like that.
But that is not what Mark does. Mark spends a couple of hours on an over-the-top undying love collage. There is nothing wrong with the gesture itself. Had Juliet been available and not, you know, married to his best friend, it would have been pretty romantic. But given the context, it’s terrible.
Mark is supposed to be that Peter’s best friend. He was the best man. If my best friend/Maid of Honor tried to Cusack my husband, I would be crushed. It’s a shitty thing to do.
And what was the goal? He claims there is no hope or agenda, but what about unintended consequences? What if Juliet was like “Fuck it, I’ll leave my seemingly lovely husband for you”? I imagine it would be a little bit like the end of "The Graduate." It’s all adrenaline and romantic feelings but then you’re there with this person you don’t really know and you realize your life isn’t a movie it’s not all collages about wasted hearts.
Juliet didn't leave her husband. I’ll admit it didn't seem like that would happen in the first place, but it was kind of a possibility. Pinning the responsibility on Christmas with “at Christmas you tell the truth” doesn't seem fair. Also, does one tell the truth at Christmas? I don’t particularly equate the season with truth-telling; I equate it with lying to myself about my finances and how many cookies I can bake.
All Mark really got out of the whole thing was a kiss (which seemed to bring a little closure for him), and what the eff was that kiss about? Maybe it was just a way of letting him know she had heard him. Maybe it was gratitude for thinking she’s so great (it is always nice when someone thinks you’re great). Maybe it’s a pity kiss. But now Juliet has to go back to her husband and watch TV like nothing happened. Maybe it is nothing in Juliet’s mind, but I would feel terrible and being the compulsive confessor that I am, I would end up telling Peter and the marriage and friendship would be altered.
When we see Juliet and Peter in Heathrow at the end, everything seems fine. I assume she never told him. But she’ll always think about that kiss. She’ll always think of Mark as a backup plan. She may even compare herself to Mark’s girlfriends, and wonder if one of them has replaced her in his “wasted heart.”
Or maybe she won’t. I may be over thinking it.