Shame on me, I have now seen this movie twice without having reviewed it, but I can tell you one thing: romantic movies are altogether different depending on who you see them with. Normally I do not like to reveal much about my companions, but this is worthy of note in my enjoyment of the movie. The first time I saw Notting Hill, I saw it with (I am not lying) my ex boyfriend and his more recent ex-girlfriend and another girl he went out with once. So imagine the ladies, by and large swooning over Hugh, grumbling softly to themselves that our one male companion couldn’t have been as floppily charming and sincere or whatever (sorry, man) as our celluloid swain. Now picture the guy, surrounded by women who, for the record, he is around all the time anyway, taking frantic notes to himself in case Julia Roberts happens to call Apple to license a whole lot of the MacOS. And a distinct shortage of Raisinets were present as well.
The second time I saw this movie was with one of my bestest friends in the whole world, a married female who I was visiting. Hugh does not as much for her as me, but she claims she could understand his charm in this movie (which is all I ask for – she’s got a man with a yummy accent). It was a million times squishier for me. I must get a date to take me so I can see how the other half lives.
I’ll come right out and say it, I think Hugh Grant is the dishiest, and while Julia Roberts I can take or leave, she is best when she is luminous and dewy. The premise can be appreciated by anyone in the whole world: common man falls in with super goddess. It’s been done a million times, but seldom so nicely, I think. Who doesn’t want to be the deity revered without even having to do anything? Who doesn’t want to be the mortal noticed and loved by the deity? Who doesn’t want to see past some public persona into the real person of someone who is an icon? (Are you listening, John Cusack?) Who doesn’t want someone to take the trouble to see past one’s public persona and be seen for who they really are? Who doesn’t want to meet that person (assuming you haven’t) who is your perfect match and somehow overcome all obstacles to be together and be happily happily ever after? And, frankly, given the number of guests Jerry Springer and his ilk have every week, who apparently doesn’t want to be famous, no matter for what reason?
Given all that, what would not be appealing to *someone* in this movie? Merely the sociology of famous meeting unfamous and how would that work is interesting. On top of that, our stars have some nice chemistry, some really good acting moments (who doesn’t wish Julia would replace Andie in Four Weddings and a Funeral – same director), and a really cool passage of time sequence as well. Watch the extras when Hugh goes walking dejectedly through Notting Hill.
Like all bittersweet British comedies (Peter’s Friends, Four Weddings, etc.), our hero has a wonderful tight net of supportive friends who are also interestingly painted and well developed. Dang, but those people sure know how to build a character. Notable (and perhaps a tad over the top) is Grant’s flatmate Spike, who frankly is appalling but at least his grotesqueness serves a purpose.
First viewing, I thought there were some editing problems, but apparently we had a terrible print because the second viewing went much more smoothly. I have to say, however, that the soundtrack (not the score, it’s actually quite hold-your-breath nice) is the cheesiest, nastiest clumping of only vaguely appropriate songs since…well, something that kid from Rushmore would have produced. Ugh! Perfectly lovely moments killed by a smarmy soundtrack – and it’s not even like embarrassing overuse of pop hits, which would be execrable but understandable from a marketing perspective. Ick.
Overall, an interesting tale told well, and go see it with someone you love. Sorry, ex-ie boy. It’s just not the same.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/28/99
Time in minutes 123
Director Roger Michell
Studio Universal Pictures