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It’s interesting to note that this film teams up Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Grant, especially, has been looking for the right vehicle to supersede his efforts in “Four Weddings And A Funeral” from 1994, while Roberts has been aiming for a major hit to follow her best work in “Pretty Woman” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding”. The result is an enchanting, romantic story that sees the two stars click brilliantly. Writer Richard Curtis and producer Duncan Kenworthy (both from Four Weddings And A Funeral) provide an irresistible package of these two stars and a smartly written script. It gives the audience exactly what it wants from them.
The opening scenes of Julia Roberts’ glamour and the Notting Hill scenery are a good introduction. She plays the role of Anna Scott, a world famous movie star, whose private life is the subject of instant attraction. This shows the irony of Roberts poking fun at her own stature. There are even the curious visuals of Anna’s red carpet arrivals; most of it gained from real Julia Roberts footage. Hugh Grant is right in his element here. As Notting Hill resident, William Thacker, he is a travel bookstore manager and just an average whimpering type of person who sees a celebrity, Anna Scott, walk into the store. His world turns upside down. He finds himself striking a friendship with this starlet, fumbling about some comical situations. Of particular amusement is the situation when Anna is doing the media rounds. William fakes his way through a movie press junket to get a one-on-one interview for, believe it or not, “"Horse and Hound” magazine. While seeming a little far-fetched, it’s done with style and hilarity. The teamwork between Roberts and Grant is exceptional. From his initial desire, through an unusual courtship, we see a special interaction. They have to wrestle with the external forces that create superficial differences in their lives. Anna has beauty, wealth and is inaccessible. William is earthy, socially awkward and forever apologetic. Could she really love him? The story actually tells of a relationship where the woman operates from a position of power over a vulnerable man.
The support cast adds their weight very well. Emma Chambers is William’s zany sister Honey, whilst Hugh Bonneville, Tim McInnerny and Gina McKee star as William’s friends and they provide clever individual moments. The scene where Anna astonishingly accepts William’s invitation for a date to his friends’ birthday dinner party provides amusing exchanges. Their aim is to attend to his emotional well being. Perhaps the scene-stealer throughout is William’s flatmate Spike (Rhys Ifans), the disgusting-looking slob who adds a touch of the ordinary to the high-time attitudes. He is a sweetly, ill-mannered Welshman who gives advice, albeit filthy, to his confused friend. The support cast is given the repartee to play with more so than Anna’s script allows. That only adds to the fascination of people’s reactions to being around a celebrity.
There is a notable soundtrack, including a beautiful rendition of “She” by Elvis Costello, the Bee Gees song “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” sung by Al Green, “When You Say Nothing At All” by Boyzone’s Ronan Keating, and “You’ve Got A Way” by Shania Twain. Overall, Notting Hill is a crowdpleasing, entertaining film, both intelligent and goofy. Julia Roberts absolutely glows on screen and shows why she commands high fees. HugH Grant acquits himself very well as the stammering, sincere guy, devoid of the fussiness that has hindered previous films. We are drawn into their relationship, and the whole fun of movie stars, fame and the media. It works beautifully as the director, Roger Michell, allows it to develop in stages. Although at a long 123 minutes, it’s a fine romantic comedy in the old-fashioned sense.