Christmas Songs: “Christmas is All Around Me,” Sung by Bill Nighy as Billy Mack, From The Film, “Love Actually,” 2003
When ex-druggie, burned out and jaded, has-been rocker Billy Mack told a British radio audience, Buy my festering turd of a record, in the film, Love Actually, I know that I wasn’t the only one rolling on the floor laughing. However, I didn’t know that it was also included on the soundtrack as well.
Okay, I know, I know. The Troggs, back in the Sixties, recorded this song, originally “Love is All Around” in 1967. And then WetWetWet covered it for Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994, and it became a hit all over again.
A parody of the song appears as a central theme in the British Christmas/romantic comedy Love Actually (2003), which, like Four Weddings and a Funeral, was written by Richard Curtis. On the film’s DVD commentary track, Curtis says that after the success of the Wet Wet Wet version, he “couldn’t think of a funnier way to start the film than by actually making [the British public] listen to the same song again.” In the movie, a burned-out rock star character, Billy Mack (played by Bill Nighy), changes the lyrics of the classic “Love Is All Around” to “Christmas Is All Around” and “come on and let it show” to “come on and let it snow” in what he freely admits is a cheap attempt to reach the Christmas number one spot, thus achieving a comeback “at any price”. The Christmas version appears periodically throughout the movie, with frequent references made to its being “crap”. The song is featured on the film’s soundtrack album, which in 2004 reached Billboard‘s Top 40 and ranked #2 on the soundtrack album chart. It also achieved gold record status in Mexico and Australia.
The film as well as the soundtrack came in for a lot of mixed reviews—and sarcasm. The most recent salvo protesting the film’s growing popularity as a romantic Christmas film came from The Atlantic magazine. Christopher Orr emphatically believes that Love Actually is not a romantic film.
As for the rest of the film—which is to say, the bulk of the film—I think it offers up at least three disturbing lessons about love. First, that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind. Second, that the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say “I love you”—preferably with some grand gesture—and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss. And third, that any actual obstacle to romantic fulfillment, however surmountable, is not worth the effort it would require to overcome.
Hmmmm, he has a point about looksism and the grand gesture. However, what can you do with a film within a certain length of time? I personally did not think that Keira’s body was all that winning, although her character Juliet seems sweet at face value. But what was it that her husband Peter and secret admirer Mark loved about her? What made her loveable? Who knows? Orr also takes an indirect jab at the film’s soundtrack, suggesting that “the movie’s peculiar conviction that weddings and funerals ought to be livened up by (respectively) the Beatles and the Bay City Rollers, and so on” should not be used to gloss over the fact that nobody is really working at their relationships enough for us to really root for them to make it, at least for Christmas.
Other than new or previous feelings about this film and its accompanying soundtrack, I think it’s worth it to revisit Nighy’s contribution during the Christmas season, if only for laughs. Enjoy.
- Best Christmas Movies (sweetbounty.wordpress.com)
- Which Best Part Of ‘Love Actually’ Is Actually The Best? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Video Krypt’s Top 10 Christmas Movies… (videokrypt.wordpress.com)
- Elf Vs. Love Actually: Which Is The 21st Century’s Christmas Classic? (thoughtcatalog.com)