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Notting Hill

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All-Reviews.com 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 Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

Like most movie fans, every once in a while I enjoy something light to take the sting out of all the bad movies that crop up every so often, and so far, 1999 has had its share of real clunkers. So now that the summer season has arrived, can things get better or worse? That depends on who you ask. Last summer brought 'Saving Private Ryan' but it also brought 'Godzilla' which was disliked by most. Romantic comedies have the dubious distinction of all looking alike so what's so interesting about 'Notting Hill'? Aside from the fact that it's a quiet, well written and cleverly conceived comedy, it also has many scenes of brisk drama about how bad people think their lives are and finding out that the rich and famous sometimes don't have it much easier.

In 'Notting Hill' Julia Roberts plays Anna Scott, the most famous female movie star in the world (that must have been a stretch for her to play). While visiting London to promote her new film, she browses the little neighbourhood shops in the Notting Hill district and enters a little travel book store owned and operated by William Thacker (Hugh Grant). After making a purchase she leaves the store and has an accident later with Grant and gets covered in orange juice. He offers to let her come to his flat and get cleaned up and the two of them later strike up a romantic relationship.

Thacker has a problem with women that makes him say some things in a rather tongue tied fashion, a perfect contrast to Roberts' character who says little, listens while looking directly her subject and knows exactly how to respond. William takes Anna to meet his best friends and his sister. There is Max and Bella (Tim McInnerny and Gina McKee). She is in a wheel chair from a tragic domestic accident and Max takes care of her. William's sister Honey (Emma Chambers), works in a record store and is rather goofy around her own kind, let alone meeting a rich and famous movie star. The most hilarious but yet somewhat out of place character is Spike (Rhys Ifans). He's the scruffy, slow witted room mate to William and provides some of the film's funniest site gags.

The film reminds us in wake of the Princess Diana tragedy of 1997 that the media is ruthlessly obsessed with celebrity fed only by the will of the public. There is one startling scene where the media find out that Anna is staying at William's flat and they take pictures of all parties concern in rapid fashion that will haunt Anna's career once the gossip starts.

I suppose what struck me as most whimsical about 'Notting Hill' is the fact that those involved make the film work with straight, no-nonsense dialogue. The film has very little music score and relies on romance to make it all sing. There is one intimate little night time date that William and Anna embark on where they trespass on to private property and enjoy the pleasures of a garden ladled setting to further their romance.

Another plus the film offers are the scenes where we see ordinary people going about their lives and the audience can relate to this and the audience isn't consumed by the trappings of a rich movie star's life but rather she is brought down to the ordinary lifestyle and this is a fresh and proper perspective the film takes in making it more appealing than any other direction it could have taken.

Director Roger Michell makes it all unfold attractively like a play and screenwriter Richard Curtis ('Bean', 'Four Weddings and a Funeral') writes some inventive lines and injects just enough humour and drama to find a perfect balance and 'Notting Hill' has an ending that is not really expected but fate plays a hand in the plot all along and some will envy the outcome of this film while other's will like their present lives just fine the way they are.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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