movie trailer (apple.com - quicktime)
NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Buck Thighmaster who says...
"Strange movie. Though billed heavily as a romantic comedy, it barely qualifies. Overall it would have made more sense if they had changed the tone a bit, without changing the script, and called it a drama."
"There are a large number of interweaving stories that don't balance out or end evenly, so I'm not going to try to interweave the plot spoiler. I'll just describe each thread in full, then the epilogue."
Movie opens with six weeks before Christmas with Hugh Grant's voice explaining how he loves the Arrivals Terminal at Heathrow Airport because you can see true love all the time in the ways all the various people greet their friends, family, lovers, wives, husbands, children, etc.
Hugh Grant arrives at 10 Downing Street as the brand new (unmarried) British Prime Minister and gets introduced to his household staff, including the new girl, Natalie, who immediately manages to accidently swear three times while introducing herself to the new head of government. Once Hugh is shown into his office it becomes apparent he's completely smitten, but not happy with the prospect, considering circumstances. A few days later Natalie brings him coffee as part of her duties and reveals she likes him personally, he's not just her boss, and the PM probes for some personal details from Nat. She's also single. (Several characters bizarrely comment at different points that Natalie has a fat butt and huge thighs, even though she didn't really appear at all out of the ordinary.)
The newly elected (married) American President (Billy Bob Thornton - excellent in very small part) comes to visit. In the planning meeting prior to the visit Hugh's cabinet indicates that they are not very happy with the current relationship between the two countries and think there are a number of issues that should be strongly addressed; the PM disagrees and indicates that they'll avoid conflict in starting a new relationship, not pushing any issues at this time.
The President quickly reveals that he's sharp, controlled, ruthless, willing to go after anything in a skirt, and won't even discuss anything the PM might be concerned about. As far as the Pres is concerned, he expects Britain to roll over and shut up. Later in the evening when the PM steps out of the room for 30 secs the President tries to take advantage of Natalie as she's delivers coffee. The PM returns in time to find Nat extremely discomforted and she escapes. The President just grins it off. At the press conference at the end of the visit the President thinks everything went swimmingly and announces so; the PM immediately pulls the rug out from under him by commenting at length as to how 'America has become a bully and Britain deserves much better treatment then she has been receiving, and has little interest in cooperating with the US until things change'. The PM's staff is delighted. The President looks like he swallowed a frog. The PM gets a staff member to transfer Natalie as he can't deal with the distraction.
The PM dances through his new digs. On Christmas eve the PM opens goes through a stack of representative Christmas cards culled from the thousands sent to him, a stack seemingly prepared by Natalie. It includes a card from her which tastefully apologizes for her gaffs and reveals that she personally cares for him quite a bit. The PM decides to go for it, gets his car and driver, tracks down her address with difficulty, and knocks on the door of her family rowhouse where she is temporarily staying. Natalie knows why's he's there immediately, but he has to come to her brother's elementary school Christmas pageant (the brother is dressed as an octopus) before they manage a first kiss that is caught by the entire audience. So much for a romance out of the public eye.
Peter is getting married and standing at the alter, makes his best man, Mark, promise that there are no more surprises, as the surprise Brazilian strippers at the bachelor party the night before turned out to be men. Peter gets married to his lovely bride Juiliet. As they turn around the curtains pull back on the choir loft and a full choir and soloist start singing soul love songs. Just to top things off, as the song reaches the instrumental climax various musicians hidden amongst the wedding guests stand up and start playing. Mark films it all. At the wedding reception Mark sits glumly watching the newlyweds dance, and Sarah asks how long he's been in love with the groom. Mark clumsily denies having any idea what she's talking about, but he does have a certain air about him, plus he runs an art gallery so the audience is left wondering.
Later Peter calls up and asks Mark to be nice to Juliet, as she needs a favour and Mark has always been cold to her. Juliet wants Mark's wedding video as the official one is a write-off, but Mark professes that his is ruined too. Juliet shows up unannounced at his apartment and tries to make friends, then discovers the Mark's wedding video sitting prominently on his video shelf. She insists on playing it, not in the best-of-moods now, and discovers that it has been edited down to only scenes of Juliet at her most radiant. Juliet realizes that Mark doesn't hate her, he's in love with her, but what's he going to do - mess with his best friend's fiance and lose them both? Mark achingly reveals that he avoids her to protect his vulnerable heart and flees his apartment. On Christmas eve Mark goes to their door and when only Juliet answers he pretends to be a caroller so Peter won't be suspicious, then tells Juliet he loves her, but don't worry, he just wanted to tell her the once, since it's Christmas and he'll stop pining and be a good friend to the two of them from now on. Juliet kisses him once for the memory, and Mark walks away somewhat melancholy but satisfied.
Jamie leaves his sick girlfriend, whom he loves very much, at home to attend Peter's wedding. Jamie returns after the ceremony to find his brother in bed with his enthusiastic girlfriend. Jamie decamps to his rustic cottage in the south of France where he works on a book in the company of a young new Portuguese cook and housekeeper, Aurelia. Neither speaks the other's language at all, so they lack any communication ability. Despite this, subtitles tell us they are constantly saying similar things to each other. They are very like minds and wits, appreciating the other's failings and strengths. Jamie loses half of his manuscript when Aurelia lets it blow into the pond next door, but gets to see her half naked when she shucks off her clothes and dives in to retrieve it. Jamie forces himself to also dive into the frigid water so he won't look like a wimp. Soon they are smitten with each other, though neither knows it, and talk out loud about their feelings, knowing the other won't understand. Jamie heads back to Britain for Christmas, but is stunned when Aurelia gives him a surprise goodbye kiss, then walks off silently weeping for the funny Englishman she'll never see again, who has no idea how she feels about him.
Jamie takes Portuguese lessons and abandons his extended family Christmas celebration at the last minute to return to France. He knocks on Aurelia's door and asks her father for Aurelia's hand in marriage. The father fetches the fat sister who immediately protests vocally, then they all head to Aurelia's workplace along with half the neighborhood to find the correct sister. At the restaurant where Aurelia's working as a waitress Jamie proposes in broken Portuguese, admitting the craziness of it but also that he is serious. Aurelia accepts in English - she's been taking lessons too.
Sarah is called into her boss, Harry's, office at the ad agency and forced to admit she's silently in love with the art director, Karl, and has been for years. Harry tells her to do something about it as it's driving everyone on staff nuts, including Karl. Sarah is constantly getting interrupted by her cellular phone. After a few false starts she finally manages to slow dance with Karl at the office Christmas party and from there he escorts her home. Then it's a first kiss on her doorstep and 60 secs later an ecstatic Sarah and Karl are falling onto her bad and losing clothes left and right.
Sarah's cell phone rings and she breaks things off to answer it. We discover that she has a brother who is severely disturbed and institutionalized and she is pathologically devoted to him, to the point of being unable to ever say 'no', even though he calls her dozens of times a day in a disturbed state. Even when her dream date, Karl, is lying half naked on her bed and wanting her, his dream date. Karl, who is noticeably a bit younger, can't really deal with this, especially since this is their first date and frankly they know nothing about each other, since they were both too hung up to say a word at the office before this. It's obvious that things are over. Any second chance between them will be a long time coming.
Sarah leaves her house to visit her brother in the middle of the night, who displays his pleasure at her visit by trying to strike her. He is seriously disturbed; luckily she's well practiced in dealing with it. Later she spends Christmas eve with him at the hospital opening presents. The brother is in a better mood and it's obvious they love each other dearly, despite the obsessive pathology of their family relationship.
Harry the middle-aged ad man discovers his assistant, Mia, is coming on to him, and not subtly. She's much younger and you can't tell if she really cares for him or is just looking for a shag and a leg up with the boss. Harry seems nonplussed but interested. After several of these interplays we meet Harry at home with his wife Karen and suddenly discover that he has a family and Karen is sister to the PM. Karen notices the assistant at the Christmas party and quickly sizes up the situation, warning Harry at home later to be careful with Mia. Mia doesn't slow down and soon Karen almost catches Harry at the mall buying a necklace for his hopeful seducer. Karen discovers the necklace later and assumes it's for her, and is then devastated but hides it when she gets a CD greatest hits of Joannie Mitchell from Harry for Christmas. Mia is shown prancing about her flat half-naked, enjoying her new necklace. Karen and Harry take the children to their Christmas pageant on Christmas eve, where their eldest daughter is playing the first lobster part. After the pageant Karen can't hold it in any longer and reveals that she knows about the necklace and is of course dreadfully hurt. Harry clumsily professes
his idiocy and indicates that nothing actually happened between Mia and himself. This story ends right there at that moment.
Daniel's beloved wife has just died after long illness, leaving him a stepson, Sam. At the funeral Daniel reveals that his wife wanted him to find happiness with Claudia Schiffer, and then she is sent off via a tacky multimedia presentation she put together herself, featuring a soundtrack of the Bay City Rollers. Daniel grieves at home, commiserating occasionally with his good friend Karen, and worrying about what the grief is doing to Sam. Turns out Sam's fine because he's distracted from grief by his pining for the love of his life (he's about 12) who doesn't know he exists, an American exchange student at school named Joanne, same as his dead mother, who's due to return to America at Christmas. With relief Daniel helps Sam try to come up with plans to get Joanne's attention or at least deal with the pain of loving someone who doesn't love you.
Eventually Sam decides to learn an instrument because then he'll get to perform in the Christmas pageant band while Joanne is a featured performer in the cast. Daniel endures many weeks of drum lessons. Night of the pageant Sam is a decent drummer, while Joanne is a stunning 12 year old singer obviously destined for pop music greatness if she continues developing. Daniel is stunned at this magnificent girl his son has fallen hopelessly in love with. Joanne finishes her solo by pointing at Sam, to his delight, but then points at various other cast and audience members, seemingly eliminating any meaning on her part. Sam mopes off stage.
Daniel and Sam shoulder through the crowded school, Sam satisfied that his plan went off without a hitch while sad that it didn't actually work, when Daniel bumps into another parent - a single mother who looks just like Claudia Schiffer. She obviously takes a fancy to him. Daniel convinces Sam that they should go to the airport and catch Joanne before she leaves so Sam can tell her how he feels, even if it won't change anything at this point. They make the airport and Sam slips through security and pursued to the boarding ramp where he catches up with Joanne, who is delighted to see him. Sam is equally delighted that she not only knows who he is but obviously only never talked to him because she was nervous about her feelings too. Sam is dragged off by security and kicked out of the airport, but Joanne comes back out through security for a chaste 12 year old kiss before running back to catch her plane.
Billy Mack is a bitter, lonely, aged former British pop-rock star, think Elton John or Billy Joel, but physically and musically more in common with Mick Jagger. He produces a Christmas album of cash-in hits where the lyrics to hoary old pop standbys are replaced with Christmas themed lyrics and sung badly. At the recording session everyone, including Billy's long suffering manager Joe, honestly agrees it's utter crap and they're strictly in it for the money and one last kick at the pop chart. Billy promotes the album relentlessly in the media, shamelessly slagging and abusing the album's music, his own reputation, his fellow aged pop stars, the musical competition on the charts, the very media shows that are hosting him, and especially his manager Joe. Billy even promises to perform the album's single release naked on live TV Christmas eve if he's number one on the pop charts by Christmas, and produces a Robert Palmer video rip-off for the single that is absolutely atrocious.
Christmas eve Billy's album has amazingly hit #1, to everyone's surprise and delight, so he's back on top and invited to all the hot parties. However he ditches them all to show up at his lonely manager Joe's ugly flat, the only real friend and family either has, but happy with each other and their long history together.
John and Judy are professional movie stand-ins who take the place of the movie stars for the tedious process of lighting a movie set, adjusting the cameras properly, etc. They are just starting some major production working together for the first time, and it becomes apparent they're standing in for the co-stars in a very hot and heavy romance film. They start out mildly simulating sex while fully clothed, but quickly the demands of the lighting and camera crews, including assistant director Tony, get absolutely outrageous, though everyone including John and Judy act as if this is all normal practice for a movie production. Soon John and Judy are heavily faking sex while completely naked, while technicians roam over them with light meters and they pretend this is a completely normal and boring job and converse awkwardly with each other about the traffic congestion. Over the course of several scenes and weeks John and Judy cover just about every non-acrobatic position. It becomes obvious that they like each other and eventually John works up the nerve to ask Judy out on a date. We see him deliver her home, they share a first kiss (since up 'til now they only pressed their naked bodies together), and Judy professes her attraction to John, much to his delight as he heads home.
Lastly (phew), Colin Frissell, is a young English slacker with a low-level job at the ad agency. He is convinced he is placed on this planet for the benefit of women everywhere, but English women are too dense to realize his complete and utter sexual magnetism. His best friend Tony tries to talk sense into him, pointing out it's probably because Colin is a git and a goofball, but Colin will hear none of it. He convinces himself that American women will appreciate him completely, sublets his flat to get the money to fly to America, and ends up in Milwaukee in early December despite Tony's best attempts at common sense and dissuasion. Colin arrives in America with nothing but the clothes on his back and an enormous backpack filled with condoms. He immediately heads for the nearest bar, a generic dive, where he is quickly noticed and picked up by a pretty young brunette local who loves Englishmen. Who has a blonde roommate in the bar who also loves Englishmen. Who has another blonde roommate in the bar who also loves Englishmen. Who has another roommate who isn't at the bar right then but will love him. And they are all bisexual and think Colin should stay at their house, though he'll have to share the one bed with them all and they like to sleep naked. Colin, all his nonsensical dreams answered, allows that he could put up with this arrangement. We last see them silhouetted through the curtains of the house, all removing each others' clothes, while the fourth! roommate Harriet, 'the sexy one', walks up to the front door.
We go back to Heathrow airport Arrivals, long after the holidays are past, where various characters arrive back in England from sundry trips and are greeted by their loved ones:
Harry returns from a business trip and is greeted awkwardly, resignedly but sincerely by Karen.
Jamie and Aurelia return from France for the first time and are greeted by Peter, Juliet, and Mark. Aurelia is amazed at how model-gorgeous all of Jamie's friends are.
Tony is jostled, while waiting, by John and Judy who have gotten engaged.
Colin returns in triumph from America with Harriet on his arm, obviously a devoted item, and is greeted by Tony, who is amazed that Colin actually got together with someone with his wacko scheme. Tony is also immediately jumped by Harriet's gorgeous sister who tagged along.
Daniel is waiting with the Claudia Schiffer single mom while Sam waits for Joanne, who is returning to England for a visit. They are happy to see each other again, but don't kiss. They are only 12, after all.
The PM returns from some official trip and greets the crowd waiting to see him with relaxed dignity. Natalie runs out of the crowd and jumps on him with great familiarity, to his slight embarrassment but greater pleasure.