Film Review Hotline
Selected from the June 1999
Film Review
Hugh Grant in Notting Hill
NOTTING HILL
4 Stars

Did you write the book of love?

STARS: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee
DIRECTOR: Roger MichellSCREENPLAY: Richard Curtis
CERTIFICATE: 15DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Polygram
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 04minsOPENING DATE (UK): May 28

Notting Hill is romantic comedy par excellence, leaping from nail-biting comic moment to moment, safe in the hands of the underrated Hugh Grant, who is brilliantly cringe-worthy, gawky and cute as he falls for the most famous-actress in the world, incidentally played by Julia Roberts.

Curtis and company haven't tried to create a sequel to Four Weddings and a Funeral. The only connection between the films is a tone of wit and Brit humour and the fact that both are set among a group of friends.

Grant is William, a bumbling travel bookshop owner who is love struck when megastar Anna Scott (Roberts) swans into his shop and after an altercation with an orange juice, ends up in his flat refusing cups of tea. This kick-starts a romance which has to jump through various hoops; William's family, friends and revolting flatmate, Anna's publicist and the papparazzi entourage, all of whom nearly scupper the course of true love.

However, unlike Four Weddings which tackled a range of relationships (gay, straight, unrequited) Notting Hill confidently stays with the main romance and friends and family are only there as banana skins for the lovers to slip up on, or to be people with whom they display their adorable true colours.

This is a shame because the supporting cast are spot on. Ifans as Welsh scuzz-bucket Spike and Mckee as wheelchair-bound Bella are both excellent but a tad underused. The film also stays firmly within a middle class frame. There's not a Notting Hill Carnival or Afro Carribean in sight, totally unrealistic for a film based in multi-racial Notting Hill (and a film which will cause a tourism surge to that area).

In addition to working as a romantic comedy, Notting Hill provides an interesting examination of celebrity. Julia Roberts's mega stardom is not simply an excuse for endless gags (like Grant having to pose as an interviewer for Horse and Hound to gain access to her), but serves as a reminder of the power of the press. She's a woman with no access to normality, no privacy and no freedom to make mistakes. This may only be of interest within media circles but it does act as a reminder of how being in the spotlight can ruin your life (Lady Diana as a poignant casualty immediately springs to mind).

Overall Notting Hill is brilliant. It's well written, crafted and performed and it tickles the ribs and plucks the heart strings. It's worth remembering that romantic comedy is a darn sight harder to pull off than more narrative-driven thrillers, dramas and actioners. This film has real spirit and – with Julia's brilliant pearly whites – has one heck of a contagious smile.

Lórien Haynes

Read our massive new reviews section in this month's Film Review
Also Recommended
{short description of image}
ARTEMISIA May 7
FORCES OF NATURE May 7
BEST LAID PLANS May 14
GET REAL May 14
{short description of image}
THE IDIOTS May 14
ETERNITY AND A DAY May 14
BLACK CAT WHITE CAT May 14
CRUSH PROOF May 28