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Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: What horrors hath Love Actually wrought?

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Richard Curtis has ruined rom-coms for the rest of us, says movie blogger Dominic Corry.

Another love scene from Love Actually. Photo / Supplied
Another love scene from Love Actually. Photo / Supplied

I've always had a slight bee in my bonnet about Richard Curtis, the New Zealand-born screenwriter behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill who moved into directing his own material with 2003's Love Actually.

Putting aside the stellar TV work he did earlier in his career (like Spitting Image, Blackadder and, er, Mr Bean), I have always found the throughline in his movies to inspire toxic hatred in me.

The self-perceived British "charm" that buoys Four Weddings and Notting Hill (and the Bridget Jones films, which Curtis wrote the screenplays for) has consistently rubbed me the wrong way.

There is an intellectual and cinematic piousness to these films, a sense of comedic snobbery.

It's as if they scream "Look, we're not stupid Americans! We're articulate, self-aware Brits! How great are we?!" while tapping into cliches and tropes just as predictable and groan-inducing as their counterparts across the Atlantic.

Everyone has films, filmmakers or actors they hate irrationally. For me, that person is Richard Curtis. His trademark protagonist - the foppish, bumbling, endearing Englishman (usually played by Hugh Grant) drives me up the wall.

I understand that Curtis' films are loved by many people, I'm just not one of them.

And make no mistake, I love a good romantic comedy (British or otherwise). The only problem is most of them are terrible. And now I am blaming Richard Curtis.

Love Actually felt like the sum total of Richard Curtis' cinematic perspective - an anthology which crammed in every Curtis-centric romantic trope imaginable, and then some.

That little kid character alone was enough to make me believe that true evil existed in this world.

Following Love Actually, Curtis graciously moved on to other genres - he wrote and directed 2009's The Boat That Rocked (which wasn't without its fair share of awful Curtis-ishness) and scripted Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the smash hit play War Horse, among other projects.

Curtis may have left Love Actually behind, but Hollywood did not. In a case of delayed inspiration, the 2010 film Valentine's Day clearly modelled itself on Love Actually, positioning itself as an American counterpart to Curtis' film. And it was a blight on humanity.

It's success lead directly to another "American Love Actually" - last year's New Years Eve, which was even worse. I found myself in the bizarre position of wistfully recalling the comparatively bearable Love Actually itself.

And this week the trend continues with the release of What To Expect When You're Expecting, yet another shallow American comedic anthology that is taking clear inspiration from Love Actually.

"Inspired" by the widely-known pregnancy guide written by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, What To Expect When You're Expecting isn't an outright romantic comedy (although there's more than enough of the mushy stuff for it to qualify), but its tone, structure and casting recalls Love Actually.

Curtis' film-from-hell has apparently inspired a whole new genre: The Anthology-Com! Or Ant-Com? Logy-Com?

Here's the embarrassing part: I saw Expecting last week, and it kinda got to me. Just a little bit. By the end of the film, I cared about most of the characters, which is more than you can say for a lot of movies, especially those starring Jennifer Lopez.

But my principal concern about the far-reaching and long-lasting influence of Love Actually remains. The Richard Curtis fop male character now defines the British leading man, and the structure of his romance anthology is now a go-to form for modern comedies.

Adding the notion of adapting self-help books with name recognition to the fray probably isn't going to help matters.

I shouldn't really blame Curtis. He's obviously at the top of his game, even if that game is populated by smugly self-deprecating characters whose actions would lead to jail time in the real world.

Although I should probably admit that the first rom-com he wrote (1989's Jeff Goldblum-starrer The Tall Guy, a world away from the Hugh Grant-starring films) remains a personal favourite of mine.

When Kenneth Branagh; Emma Thompson and all the other Footlights heroes came to filmic prominence in the early '90s the term "luvvy" was thrown about a lot. They said it. It was said about them. It described their collective sensibility accurately. This was a touch twee, but okay. They made some good movies.

In my mind, the British comedic sensibility pushed by Richard Curtis is "luvvy" multiplied by 50 million and slathered in gravy. Even if he never makes another movie, the effect of Richard Curtis' legacy upon frivolous cinema is assured.

His next film, About Time is a romance with time travel elements. I guess it can't be much worse the The Time Traveler's Wife, with which it shares a leading lady - Rachel McAdams.

For the record, here are some rom coms I love: Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Love Potion No. 9 (an underrated gem!), The Accidental Tourist (why don't they make movies like this any more?) and Say Anything.

* Am I alone in my hatred of Richard Curtis and his annoying rom-coms? Do you think his influence has negatively impacted cinema? Comment below!

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