' ' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra: Love Actually Version

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Shout-Out to the Extra: Love Actually Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care.

The prologue for Richard Curtis’s “Love Actually” (2003), a motion picture consisting of a mixture of strawberries, broken meringue, and whipped heavy cream, finds Hugh Grant as Britain’s Prime Minister explaining in voiceover a preference for kicking up his heels at Heathrow Airport’s arrivals gate to simply watch the affection exchanged between “fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.” After that opening, however, there are a lot of observations about love, or the flickering myth version of love, if you prefer, but not a lot of characters standing back, like the Prime Minister essentially is in this opening, to observe love themselves. The closest we get to the Heathrow Airport arrivals gate – uh, aside from the Heathrow Airport arrivals gate right there at the end – is the climactic scene toward the end when neurotic Jamie (Colin Firth) dispels with his neurosis to make a grand gesture by catching a flight to track down his beloved Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) at the restaurant where she works to make marriage proposal in Portuguese. As he does, everyone in the restaurant comes to a standstill, including the waiter pictured below.

Every time I saw this frame, whether at the many annual tryptophan-hazed Thanksgiving viewings I had with friends over the years or anywhere in-between, I only really ever noticed the waiter. How could I not? His smile does not overwhelm, which is just right, a little more private, as if even in this moment he is adhering to the unwritten code that the customer comes first. Yet I had never noticed a couple others in the frame. The server to his right, for instance, who seems a little less pensive and a little more put out, as if she was just about to finish her shift and now this will further delay her fleeing. She, however, is nothing compared to the dude to the bottom of her, obscured by the subtitled “they”, who seems, like, legitimately angry, like who are these intruders, these glory hounds compromising his culinary experience. Indeed, his irritation and her more mild form of it contrast impeccably with the whimsy of the central waiter and make this frame so much fuller than I ever realized.

In recent years, of course, so many civil hands of movie lovers have been left unclean with civil blood in disputes over whether “Love Actually” is merely a rom com sugar plum fairy that makes even me, traditionally snide critic, want to say things like “You know, people just go to the movies to be entertained” [scrubs own mouth with soap) or something far more insidious, a sexist trash heap as Amy O’Dell deemed it so harshly for Cosmopolitan.

I am receptive to the arguments of O’Dell and the ten thousand others like hers, honestly, though I genuinely believe that “Love Actually” was crafted with far too much guilelessness to be considered so malicious. And I suppose that is why I identity with this frame. I understand the server who just wants this whole bad-Portuguese proposal to end, and I am empathetic with the incensed gentleman who doesn’t believe all this hooey for a second. Still, in this photo I am the waiter, and will be forever, standing back, observing love, believing in it, God help me, ’til the end.

Pour one out for the extra...

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