Image Courtesy of Beth Amann and Patrick Flynn
By Katie Van Lew
‘Tis the season to curl up next to a fireplace, bake Christmas cookies, and most importantly, cry, laugh, and relish in the chaos of Love Actually. Just in time for the holidays, Catholic U alumni Beth Amann and Patrick Flynn have released their podcast, What Is Love Actually? Flynn, a Helen Hayes Award-nominated playwright & award-winning filmmaker based
in Washington, DC, and Amann, the Managing Director of the Helen Hayes Award-winning Monumental Theatre Company, join forces to tame the beast that is Love Actually. Through a series of 12 episodes, the duo thoroughly analyzes each of the ten story lines of Richard Curtis’ 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually, with the help of new guests each week.
“I got the idea after reading an article that ranked the ten storylines of Love Actually,” Flynn said. “It sounded like a good limited-run podcast. At that point my other podcast The Original Cast was going strong so a limited-run project sounded like a lot of fun. And when I brought it to Beth, it really took shape.”
The duo have worked closely together on other podcasts.
“Patrick asked me, ‘Do you have strong feelings about Love Actually?’ and I responded, ‘ope,’” Amann said. “And a beautiful partnership began! I have been on podcasts with Patrick before and always had a blast, so co-hosting with him seemed like it would be wonderful. Spoiler- I was right.”
In the first episode, the hosts delve into British screenwriter and director Richard Curtis’ past screenplays, including Briget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. The two critique the work of Richard Curtis, noting the common theme of “embarrassment humor” that drives most of his screenplays, and how this could be potentially unappealing as well as cringey for viewers.
In the second episode, Flynn and Amann invite two guests to dissect Love Actually: Solomon Parker III and Joshua Simon, who have not seen the movie. The energy of the four of them together, Flynn and Amann being Love Actually connoisseurs, intertwined with the fresh, and witty humor of Parker and Simon culminate in a perfect blend of wit and comedy.
The hosts praise Emma Thompson’s plotline as well as question the aspect of power dynamic in some of the controversial storylines, such as in the storyline of Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant) and Natalie (played by Martine McCutcheon), which they compare to the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal.
In regards to the least appealing storylines of the movie, they discussed Juliet’s story, who is a bride-to-be (played by Kiera Knightley) and Mark, the best man and wedding videographer (played by Andrew Lincoln).
“Love is something that I think has to be cultivated, and from what the movie was giving me, basically [Mark] does not even know [Juliet’s] last name,” Parker III said. “He actively tries to not be around her. A crush is one thing but you’re at this wedding fully recording this woman… It was creepy, it was a total violation of his friendship with the groom.”
Another topic of interest discussed during the episode is the incessant body shaming, in particular of Natalie, a junior staff member at 10 Downing Street. The critique of her body is used for “cheap laughs,” and perpetuates society’s ridiculous standard of beauty that correlates with that of praising slim people. Additionally, the podcast comments on the sexual harassment that frequently meanders throughout these plotlines occurs.
“I’d like to bring up the fact that I noticed in this viewing more than ever how much responsibility is being placed on the women to avoid being sexually harassed,” Amann said. “There’s a couple examples where it’s like well you have to make sure to get yourself out of danger. You need to make sure you are not implicated.”
At the end of the second episode, the guests, who reacted to their authentic experience in relation to the movie, gave their rating for Love Actually, which was about a 6 or 7 out of 10 for Christmas movies. The guests found that the most powerful elements of romance were not the romantic relationships, but rather, the familial relationships such as that in Karen’s (played by Emma Thompson) love and sacrifice for her children, even upon discovering her husband’s infidelity.
In regards to the future of the podcast, Flynn and Amann both share high hopes for continuing to explore and dissect future films together. On Christmas Day, the duo will be hosting a Christmas special for their podcast, addressing email and comment responses that they receive from viewers.
“There were so many references to The Holiday in this podcast,” Amann said. “We’ll definitely do an episode on that and probably talk about some other holiday films, but it’s all still TBD. We’d love for fans of the podcast to let us know what they’d like to hear!”
What is Love Actually? is the quintessential Christmas podcast that every die-hard Love Actually fan needs to hear. Flynn, Amann, and guests evoke laughter and deliver powerful insight on why this movie is chaotic, while also maintaining its notoriety as a classic Christmas romantic comedy. The podcast replicates the feeling of enjoying an evening with friends, all while sharing laughs and elaborate analyses of why certain plotlines of Love Actually are more cherished than others.