Review: Julia, Hugh a perfect match for 'Notting Hill'
May 27, 1999
By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- Julia Roberts is the queen of the romantic comedy and her reign continues with her latest effort, "Notting Hill."
Screenwriter Richard Curtis and producer Duncan Kenworthy created Hugh Grant's first huge international hit film, the 1994 "Four Weddings and a Funeral." And although "Notting Hill" isn't a sequel to that movie, it does maintain the same spirit.
In other words, it's sweet, charming, somewhat predictable (although well written), and guaranteed to pluck the heartstrings of the hopelessly romantic. "Notting Hill" could also be the date movie of choice this summer -- at least until the July opening of Roberts' next romantic comedy, "Runaway Bride" with Richard Gere.
Bowled over in the bookstore
In "Notting Hill," Roberts plays Anna Scott, one of the most famous actresses in the world. Wow. What a stretch. No really, Roberts insists, she's not playing herself. And she probably isn't. It's hard to say, not knowing the woman. But there are obvious similarities.
Hugh Grant, as William Thacker, plays just an everyday British bloke (with a whole lot of hair) who owns a modest bookstore in the Notting Hill section of London. One day Scott wanders into Thacker's shop and a bing, and a bang, and a boom.
The film is now off and running with boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl, and on and on and on. At the heart of the story is what happens when a regular person gets involved with a famous person and how their lives collide.
William is lost in Anna's world and she causes a huge sensation in his. When he brings her to his sister's birthday party, all the guests trip over themselves trying to impress the big star. William's sister Honey, played with goofy charm by Emma Chambers, even follows Anna into the bathroom.
On the other hand, William's totally at sea in Anna's world when he's mistaken for a journalist at a press junket for her latest film. While stumbling through interviews with Anna's fellow actors he claims to be from Horse and Hound magazine and thinks Leonardo DiCaprio is a famous Italian director.
British actor Rhys Ifans provides provides a lot of comic mileage as Spike, William's "slob from hell" flatmate. Spike is a mad Welshman who runs around in his underwear (with his body that should be against the law), lives like a pig, and basically leaves Grant's character apologizing to everyone with whom he comes into contact for his roomie's gross behavior.
'Four Weddings' and a proven commodity
Comparisons to "Four Weddings and a Funeral" are bound to be made. Once again, this is an ensemble cast featuring a tight-knit group of friends with Grant's character at the center of it all. The object of that character's affections is once again an American woman. And once again love wins out.
If you feel this is too much information about the ending and you really don't know that Grant and Robert's character end up together, then you should be careful when meeting people selling bridges or swampland.
Since we're dealing with the same screenwriter, producer and at least some of the same acting talent, "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings" have similar humor and sensibilities. But "Notting Hill" stands alone as another funny and heartwarming story about love against all odds.
Grant keeps the eye-batting and stuttering to a minimum this time. And if CinemaScope -- that wide-screen technique hadn't been brought to the screen in 1953 -- it would have to have been invented this year to hold Roberts' grin, which fills a 40-foot screen.
All the other supporting players are British television stars and all rise to the occasion of this big-budget feature film. Final verdict? Oh, please. Grant and Roberts in a romantic comedy -- this is a no-brainer.
"Notting Hill" opens nationwide on Friday, May 28 and is rated PG-13 with a running time of 121 minutes.
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