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Sick of “Love Actually”? Read a romance novel!

"Love Actually" is not about romance. When Chris Orr made this point in The Atlantic, the Internet exploded with briefs for and against. Having watched "Love Actually" for the first time to see what all the fuss was about, I have to say that I think Orr is correct. Also, the film is terrible.

If it's not about romance, though, then what is this movie, billed as "the ultimate romantic comedy," actually about? That's easy. It's about romantic comedies — or, more generally, about movies. In fact, "Love Actually" is positively obsessed with its own movieness; with spectacle, performance and audience. Set in the holiday season, the narrative opens by encouraging the audience to visit an airport and see all the people greeting each other — "love actually is all around," the voice-over insists, meaning that love is visible, and encouraging you (and you, and you) to turn your holiday travels into a rom-com in miniature. Watch people as if they are in a movie, the voice-over insists; they are all performing love and affection for your emotional and aesthetic pleasure. And then, of course, watch the movie to teach you how to watch life. "Love Actually" does not eschew authenticity, as Noah Gittell suggests. Rather, it presents the movie itself as authenticity, the lens through which to view the world.

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