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BLOG TOUR!!! How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) by Gary Raymond

RARELY HAS THE POWER OF CINEMA BEEN FELT BY SO MANY, IN SUCH OPPOSING WAYS…

“Love Actually dulls the critical senses, making those susceptible to its hallucinogenic powers think they’ve seen a funny, warm-hearted, romantic film about the many complex manifestations of love. Colourful Narcotics. A perfect description of a bafflingly popular film.”

By any reasonable measurement, Love Actually is a bad movie. There are plenty of bad movies out there, but what gets under Gary Raymond’s skin here is that it seems to have tricked so many people into thinking it’s a good movie.

In this hilarious, scene-by-scene analysis of the Christmas monolith that is Love Actually, Gary Raymond takes us through a suffocating quagmire of badly drawn characters, nonsensical plotlines, and open bigotry, to a climax of ill-conceived schmaltz. How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) is the definitive case against a terrible movie.

Okay, confession time.

I KNOW that Richard Curtis’ Love Actually is a terrible movie.

I knew it was a terrible movie the first time I watched it – long before Lindy West’s infamous (and hilarious) take down of it for Jezebel, and long before I was old enough to truly appreciate the sheer depth of the misogyny, fat-shaming, and sheer smugness of it. And that’s before we even get onto the dodgy timeline, the numerous plot holes, and the fact that some of the actors were mostly definitely phoning it in for this one. I know all of this.

And yet, come Christmas, will I watch Love Actually? Will I crack a smile at Hugh Grant dancing around Downing Street to the sound of Girls Aloud?

Almost certainly.

I mean, look at that CAST! The fabulous soundtrack! All of the FEELS!!

This inexplainable appeal is at the heart of Gary Raymond’s How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics). Raymond, a presenter on the BBC Radio Wales’s The Review Show and editor for Wales Arts Review, likens Love Actually to being under the effect of some kind of narcotic substance. We know it’s bad for us, but we’re addicted to it anyway because of the feels.

His scene-by-scene account of the film is both thought-provoking and hilarious, mixing the astute eye of a film critic (Raymond really does make you realise how incredibly skewed the timeline is – Liam Neeson’s character goes from his wife’s funeral to dating Claudia Schiffer in the space of about 10 weeks), with a laugh-inducing blend of wry observation, cynical commentary, and downright frustration. His skewering of Curtis’ terrible characterisation and schmaltzy dialogue stays on the right side of witty, whilst his frustration with the film’s tone-deaf messaging is something that I share.

For me, Raymond’s dissection of Love Actually really comes into its own when he’s examining the motivations of the characters. Because you really do start to realise that none of the tropes that the movie wants you to invest in – that Andrew Lincoln’s Mark is a nice guy, that Alan Rickman’s Harry is a heartless husband and Emma Thompson’s Karen a long-suffering wife, and that Kris Marshall’s Colin is hilarious – really work the moment that you think about them for more than two seconds.

He also blows apart the notion that Love Actually is a Christmas movie by pointing out, quite correctly, that the central idea that you ‘have to tell the truth at Christmas’ is, at best, a misnomer and, at worse, an excuse to be particularly selfish at a time that really should be about others. Which, I have to admit, did come as a bitter pill to swallow for me. The one thing I thought I could say about Love Actually was that it fulfilled the requirements of being a Christmas film – the entire thing is, after all, overflowing with tinsel – but, alas, Raymond shows that not even a nativity play full of octopuses can give this film Christmas spirit.

So, having read Raymond’s brutal (and brutally funny) takedown of Love Actually, will I be watching it this Christmas? Well, never say never. Rowan Atkinson’s cameo as the over-attentive salesperson will always make me smile. And Emma Thompson remains a delight despite how little she gets to work with. But it’ll probably be further down the list than it has on previous years – well below A Muppet Christmas Carol and Arthur Christmas. And if I do watch it, it’ll be with the knowledge in the back of my mind that it really IS a terrible movie.

How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) by Gary Raymond is published by Parthian and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Bookshop.org, Hive, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Emma from DampPebbles Blog Tours for organising and inviting me onto this tour. The tour continues until 5th December so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

Two Mini-Reviews!! Rachel to the Rescue AND The Woman of the Wolf & Other Stories

It’s been an absolutely bumper month for books, with oodles of fantastic new releases hitting the shelves as we begin the run up to Christmas. It’s also been a bumper month for my reading life, with @laurenthebooks’s Cosy Reading Weekend, a fantastic @The_WriteReads gang buddy read of The Doll Factory, AND some fantastic Blog Tours for Blind Pool, Shades of Deception, and The Peacock Room.

In fact there’s been so much going on that today I’m bring you not one but TWO mini-reviews of some books I’ve recently finished. I don’t usually do multiple review posts but with a packed November calendar, I honestly don’t know when I’ll fit these onto the blog otherwise and I wanted to shout about them and share the book love!

Rachel to the Rescue by Elinor Lipman

Rachel Klein is sacked from her job at the White House after she sends an email criticising Donald Trump. As she is escorted off the premises she is hit by a speeding car, driven by what the press will discreetly call ‘a personal friend of the President’.

Does that explain the flowers, the get-well wishes at a press briefing, the hush money offered by a lawyer at her hospital bedside?

Rachel’s recovery is soothed by comically doting parents, matchmaking room-mates, a new job as aide to a journalist whose books aim to defame the President, and unexpected love at the local wine store.

But secrets leak, and Rachel’s new-found happiness has to make room for more than a little chaos. Will she bring down the President? Or will he manage to do that all by himself?

Billed by Stacy Schiff as ‘the Trump book that could only be published abroad’, Rachel to the Rescue is a bitingly funny satire on US politics in the Age of Trump. Reading it whilst waiting on the outcome of the US election (still undecided at the time I write this review) was both very on-the-nose and somewhat cathartic as an experience, as Lipman uses her extensive comic experience to mine serious subjects (corruption, bribery, the abuse of Presidential power) for their comedic potential.

Protagonist Rachel is sharp, smart, and full of just the right amount of cynicism and snark, whilst her delightfully doting parents fit the bill of comic sidekicks perfectly. Add in some match-making roommates, a new job working for a journalist seeking to defame the President, and an unexpected love interest, and the stage is set for a contemporary comedy that has all the hallmarks of the modern Rom-Com tradition, with a healthy dose of satire thrown in.

Given the contemporary setting, this is definitely a book of the moment and I’d urge readers not to be put off by to the political setting or connection. Whilst Rachel to the Rescue definitely takes some well-aimed swipes at the recent dramas of US politics – and the Trump administration in particular – this is a witty and mischievous comic novel that, at its heart, deals with one ordinary woman’s attempts to negotiate an extraordinary situation and that contains numerous laugh out loud moments to help ease the tensions of the current election cycle.

Rachel to the Rescue by Elinor Lipman is published by Lightning Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Bookshop.org, Hive, Waterstones, and Wordery. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

The Woman of the Wolf and Other Stories by Renée Vivien, translated by Karla Jay & Yvonne M. Klein

A woman rides crocodiles like horses. A queen gives up her throne for her dignity. And Prince Charming is not who you might think . . .

The Woman of the Wolf and Other Stories, written in 1904, is perhaps the finest work by sapphic poet Renée Vivien. Blending myth, fairy story and biblical tale, Vivien creates powerful portraits of strong women who stand up for what they believe in – and of the aggrieved men who trail behind them.

Speaking of smart women, the second book I want to tell you about today is The Woman of the Wolf and Other Stories by Renée Vivien. Born Pauline Mary Tarn, Renée was a British poet who wrote in French and spent most of her life in Paris where her circle included the likes of Colette and Natalie Clifford Barney. This collection, written in 1904, has been newly reprinted by Gallic Books as part of their Revolutionary Women series and, for all that these stories were written over a hundred years ago, they feel as fresh and relevant today as they di when they were first published.

As Angela Carter does in The Bloody Chamber, Renée Vivien deftly re-works familiar materials to reflect her concerns and ideals. The collection contains stories based on biblical tales, adventure stories, classical myth, and the poems of Sappho – one of Renée’s favourite writers. In her tales, Renée Vivien recasts the roles of men and women and plays with expectations and familiar tropes.

As with all short story collections, I preferred some of the tales in this collection more than others. Renée writes a number of stories from the perspective of male narrators and, whilst these make for some of the most disturbing tales in the collection (Vivien’s men are invariably patronising and, often, murderous in their intentions towards women), they were also, for me, some of the most intricate and rewarding to read.

Fans of Angela Carter are sure to find similarities between her work and that of Renée Vivien and will enjoy to fantastical symbolism of these stories, whilst readers seeking to rediscover an important female voice will be richly rewarded with this collection.

The Woman of the Wolf and Other Stories by Renée Vivien is published by Gallic Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Bookshop.org, Hive, Waterstones, and Wordery. My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Before I sign off for this post, I just wanted to drop in and say that, whilst I’ve put in links to some brilliant independent online retailers above, if you are able to please support a local indie bookshop and/or publisher by ordering from them either in person or online!

Lockdown 2.0 has come at just the wrong time for booksellers so it’s more important than ever to show our indies some love. Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books. If you’re unable to order direct, consider using Bookshop.org or Hive, both of whom give a proportion of sales made on their websites to independent booksellers.

This is also a great time to be supporting small and independent publishers. The two books featured today come from independent presses, both of whom have direct ordering on their websites at Eye & Lightning Books and Gallic Books. Some of my other favourite independent and small press publishers include Honno, Salt, and Louise Walters Books.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!