Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Directed by: Roger Michell
Starring: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans
I don’t want to cause controversy here (or maybe I do) but I can only think of a small handful of Rom-Coms that I actually consider good films. The problem I have is similar to the problem I have with a lot of modern horror; there’s just no originality to hold my interest. 9 times out of 10: boy meets girl, fall in love, problem arises, relationship is put in jeopardy, boy and girl realize error of their ways and fall in love, living happily ever after (or until they make a sequel).
Notting Hill works because it takes the basic Rom-Com structure, but manages to find originality through the characters and the situations they find themselves in. Most of this is down to the talents of Richard Curtis, who has a real eye for situation comedy. Curtis’s tale follows Will, the divorced owner of a travel bookshop in London’s illustrious Notting Hill. One day Anna Scott, the world’s biggest movie star, walks in to Will’s shop. Against all the odds Anna & Will begin to fall for each other, but their vastly different walks of life threaten to ruin their relationship.
It’s a charming love story that is, of course, predictable in its narrative structure. However, Curtis manages to find enough compelling originality by clashing Will’s relatable life with that of Anna’s world of press conferences and fancy parties. It’s this clash of cultures that’s wonderfully highlighted during the films standout scene, in which Will brings Anna to his baby sisters dinner party as his date. It’s a testament to the talent of Curtis that he manages to mix the comedy of this culture clash – the facial expressions of Will’s friend as they realize who he has brought to dinner are priceless – with moments of heartache; Gina McKee’s revelation about being unable to have a child is quietly devastating.
As Will, Hugh Grant plays the bumbling English gent like it’s second nature. For the most part his comic timing is flawless and Curtis’s script throws up some great lines; Will, having been forced to impersonate a journalist at a movie press junket, asking a young Mischa Barton if Leonardo DiCaprio is her “favorite Italian director” makes me laugh every time. Meanwhile, Julia Roberts (an actress for whom I am not a fan) does well in making a relatable human character out of a 2 dimensional movie star that, at times, you want to hate and can’t help but like. The chemistry between the two stars is clear to see; theirs is a love story that you cannot help but be swept up in.
Notting Hill has a fantastic supporting cast, all of who hold their own admirably. However, it is Rhys Ifans as Will’s flat mate Spike who steals the show; he gets all the best lines and his delivery is always perfect.
Of course, some aspects of Moore’s film fall too close to cheesy; the soundtrack, for example, makes you sigh whenever it kicks in (particularly that god awful Ronan Keating song). Worse than that is the presentation of London, which is just annoyingly fanciful.
Nonetheless, Notting Hill remains a superior Rom-Com; in fact I would go as far as to say it is favourite. It’s rare that I am able to watch a film with Hugh Grant in without crying and while I cry during Notting Hill, that’s with laughter not with disappointment.