Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee
Roger Michell SCREENPLAY:
and Picture copyright: Polygram
2hrs 04mins OPENING
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
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.