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Notting Hill

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Notting Hill

Starring: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts
Director: Roger Michell
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 123 Minutes
Release Date: May 1999
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Hugh Bonneville, Gina McKee, Tim McInnerny, Emma Chambers, Rhys Ifans, Alec Baldwin, Mischa Barton

Review by Greg King
4 stars out of 4

Notting Hill may well be the best romantic comedy of the year!

The very successful and hugely enjoyable Four Weddings And A Funeral was always going to be a hard act to follow. However, writer Richard Curtis does a superb job of recapturing its charm and winning humour with this classy, funny and delightfully entertaining follow up. Curtis brings genuine charm and wit to what has become an increasingly familiar and disappointingly unadventurous formula- driven genre.

This romantic comedy is set in Notting Hill, the colourful and idiosyncratic London suburb that also provided the backdrop for the recent If Only. In the type of role that perfectly suits his relaxed screen persona, Hugh Grant plays William Thacker, who owns a small travel book shop in Notting Hill's main shopping strip. He is nonplussed when his shop is visited by Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), the most famous film star in the world, in town to promote her latest movie. She is struck by the way he seems unfazed by her fame.

Another chance encounter with Anna, in which William spills coffee over her, leads to the pair developing a friendship. She attends a private birthday dinner with him, enjoying the rare opportunity to escape the publicity treadmill and the media spotlight and experience a quiet moment. William's friends look on in bemusement as he romances a high profile personality. However, numerous problems quickly develop, not the least of which is the sudden arrival of her actor boyfriend (an uncredited Alec Baldwin). When that relationship falls apart amid some torrid headlines, Anna turns to William for comfort.

But can the relationship between the world's most celebrated movie star and an unassuming book seller survive amid the pressures of intense media scrutiny and the demands of her glamorous career? Notting Hill explores these questions, and provides some surprisingly satisfying answers. One of Curtis' strengths as a writer is his ability to create memorable characters - after all, he gave us Mr Bean, Blackadder and The Vicar Of Dibley. He injects life into the eccentric peripheral characters, and the ensemble cast give them personalities of their own. One of the more interesting creations is William's unwashed, dishevelled and offbeat flat mate Spike, (played in wonderful fashion by Rhys Ifans, from Twin Town), who proves unexpectedly sympathetic and romantic at heart.

Notting Hill benefits enormously from the inspired teaming of Roberts and Grant, who develop a wonderful rapport together. Grant's easy going presence is a major part of the film's charm, while Roberts essentially plays herself in a tailor made role.

Director Roger Michell (Persuasion, etc) handles the material with a perfectly judged light touch, and the unhurried pace suits the film's tone. While Notting Hill may not quite reach the same heights as Four Weddings And A Funeral, it will certainly please audiences. For the creators here though, in this instance close enough is definitely good enough.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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