Jun 22, 2014

Review: Notting Hill (1999)

Richard Curtis, the writer and co-executive producer for Four Weddings and a Funeral gets another chance at having Hugh Grant back in the fold. Notting Hill introduces the concept of a very famous person meeting a regular Joe in a romantic comedy genre and in my opinion executes this very nicely. It's something I suppose lots of us think about. We'd like to think that we'd be cool, calm and collected, but who's really going to know until that moment actually happens. If it ever does.

Notting Hill is a real place in London and is now a pricey fashionable place to live as opposed to how it was before the 1980's. Hugh Grant's character goes into a bit of a spiel as to why the neighborhood is special and unique. He runs a travel book bookshop that seems like such a niche thing without much of a guarantee for success but whatever. It's no surprise that the shop is struggling.


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Roger Michell
Produced by: Duncan Kenworthy, Tim Bevan, Richard Curtis, etc.
Written by: Richard Curtis
Music by: Trevor Jones
Running time: 124 minutes
Production company: Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Working Title Films, Bookshop Productions, etc.
Distributed by: Universal Pictures, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, EDKO Film, etc.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: $42,000,000
Box office: $363,889,678 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Emma Chambers, Hugh Bonneville, Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnern, Gina McKee, James Dreyfus, Richard McCabe, Dylan Moran, Alec Baldwin, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Mischa Barton, Emily Mortimer, John Shrapnel



William Thacker (Hugh Grant) is far from the happiest man on Earth. He runs a struggling travel book shop and his wife divorced him a while back. He hasn't been on the dating market during this time either. In a totally random stroke of luck, A-lister filmstar Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into his shop and buys a book. He's pretty much smitten but doesn't think he has a chance at really being with her. As luck would have it, he runs into her once again not long after and convinces her to stop by his house.


Like I said, I really think that the celebrity meets regular person angle in Notting Hill works well. William Thacker doesn't go all nuts or anything and he's pretty much self deprecating actually which is a Hugh Grant specialty. The humour on the whole is comfortable and steady. It relies on the actors just as much as the material. Spike (Rhys Ifans) the flatmate who basically provides additional comedic relief isn't overused and is funny on a couple of occasions too.

Notting Hill doesn't go outside of the usual romantic comedy boundaries but it doesn't need to. There is something legitimately warm and genuine about this film and I can't really place it. I guess everyone from actors to those behind the camera are all on the same page. Director Roger Michell gets the most out of his actors and Trevor Jones' score hits the right notes.

I love how William Thacker's Englishness is softly contrasted with Anna Scott's Americanness. There isn't any fish out of water comedy going on here but their differences are gently exposed. Also, William and Anna seem like real people and not just some caricature of their respective cultures or romantic comedy conventions. The English way of life is maybe slightly romanticized but it's all in good fun. 

This film was a huge success critically and financially. That's no surprise since it's an accessible movie to just about anyone. It's also as contagious as Julia Roberts' smile and I guess the only kind of people who won't like Notting Hill are those who don't enjoy being happy.

With great convincing performances, a well-written script and some genuine heart, Notting Hill is an easy film to like. It's not a mindblowing film or one that will leave you questioning life itself but that doesn't mean it isn't any good. It's a film that any romantic comedy should try to emulate if it wants to be taken seriously. However, I really think that this is a case of all those responsible for creating Notting Hill catching lightning in a bottle and not something that's in any way easy to replicate.



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