NOTTING HILL (1999) 

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Hugh Grant
Julia Roberts
Hugh Bonneville
Emma Chambers
James Dreyfus
Rhys Ifans
Tim McInnerny
Gina McKee
Alec Baldwin

Roger Michell



Time: 123 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Chemistry doesn't always work in the movies, especially between movie stars. Lucky for us Grant and Roberts have it in spades. NOTTING HILL is a wonderful romantic comedy with great writing and first rate acting. Though the roles are nothing entirely new for Roberts and Grant, both have played similar before, they make themselves different enough to be likable and interesting. Having a good screenply pretty much makes all the difference. I wasn't too keen on the supporting cast, who seemed to be included only for comic effect and were a little too strange for my taste. What surprised me most of all about the film was that Roberts, though playing a famous movie star, actually was able to convince me she was acting as someone else. She even looked different. Of course, if you're not a fan, even though the film is funny and clever, I don't think you'll enjoy it. This is a star vehicle all the way.

The basic story of NOTTING HILL touches on a fairly universal fantasy carried in the minds of both sexes – what would it be like dating the man/woman of your dreams i.e. your favorite movie star? Everyone has that actor or actress they would do anything to meet and thinks that if only they had the chance, magic would occur and the fantasy would become reality. We all know that rarely if ever happens. In fact, most everyday people have a better chance of actually becoming famous themselves than dating a movie star. That aside this is actually a fairy tale for men.

Hugh Grant plays William Thacker a divorced, travel bookstore owner trying to make ends meet in the little London enclave known as Notting Hill. His life is somewhat lonely and fairly uneventful until Anna Scott, world-famous movie star, enters his shop. He's charming, funny and though taken aback mostly friendly. She buys something, smiles and walks out of his life. Or so he thinks. After literally running into her on the street and spilling orange juice all over her, he invites her to his flat so she can clean up. Irritated, but thankful, Anna quickly changes and is out the door. Her thanks – a fairly unexpected kiss on the lips. William is taken aback and can't believe what just happened. This just doesn't happen to people like him.

"I live in Notting Hill; you live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are; my mother has trouble remembering my name."

However, what began as a chance encounter begins to bloom into something unexpected – love. She completely wows his friends and sister during a birthday dinner, not only with her beauty, but with her openness and sense of humor. Even though she's "Anna Scott", they can understand why William is head over hills. She likes being with him, because he allows her to be a normal woman. What they both forget, is she's not, which William quickly learns when her equally famous boyfriend makes a surprise visit. She is not a person even remotely in his league with a live he can't even begin to understand. He tries to get over her by dating mortal women and he's almost successful, but when she appears again he just can't say no to her. She looks to him to provide a safe harbor during a horrific media storm and for awhile, things are perfect.

They realize they have more in common than they originally thought. However, things explode when the press discovers where she is. She feels betrayed and angry to be exposed once again. William tries to get her to view the situation with a little perspective, but this is her life and Anna is tired of having it splashed across the front page of the papers. When she returns, yet again, 6 months later, she tries to apologize for her behavior and brings him a gift. She wants to start over, asking him to give her another chance, to give them a chance. I was pleased when he refused because it's what any sane person would do, but there's no way any man would actually turn down someone like Anna. In the end he realizes the error of his decision and makes a mad dash to declare his love. Their reunion is a bit unusual for a romance, but very funny and clever.

NOTTING HILL reminded me of classic romantic comedies. You have your stars doing what they do best, a supporting cast of weirdos and friends, a clever script and a happy ending. As I said earlier, I found several of the supporting cast, mainly the actors playing William's sister and roommate, to be incredibly unbelievable and over-the-top, but overall the acting was great. Roberts was smart, pretty and at times completely crazy, which is what one would expect from a world-famous actress. Grant does what he does best – charming, funny, self-effacing gentleman, though this time he managed to add a little depth to his repertoire. The production design was wonderful and really gave you a sense of what Notting Hill is like...at least in the movies. If you don't hate either of the leads and enjoy a good romantic comedy, NOTTING HILL is a definite must-see. I watch it just about every time it comes on cable.

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