"You know, the thing about romance is people don't get together until the very end," says a serious-faced boy in this British romantic comedy (2003), articulating its facile narrative strategy. Writer-director Richard Curtis (scenarist of Four Weddings and a Funeral) counts down the five weeks before Christmas among a wide array of meet-cute couples, fielding so many characters that their flirtations sustain the entire feature. Whenever it gets to be too much he cuts to Bill Nighy, hilarious as a washed-up 70s rock star who's cynically pushing his Christmas record to the top of the charts. The fine cast includes Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, and Keira Knightley, but Alan Rickman eclipses them all as a distracted married man whose secretary keeps promising him a big gift for Christmas. This is cloying, deceitful, and more or less irresistible.
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