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-
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