An Amusing Place To Visit
True love will find a way, so the old saying goes. In the timely romantic comedy, Notting Hill, love’s way proves rocky indeed for America’s most bankable movie star (Julia Roberts) and a lonely British travel book shop owner (Hugh Grant). These two very different individuals have much to overcome on the road to romantic bliss. Their obstacles include hordes of paparazzi, eccentric friends, a wacky flat mate, an abusive boyfriend, and the star’s own temperamental outbursts.
Roberts (Stepmom) simply glows in the role of Anna Scott, an actress who earns 15 million dollars per film. During the opening credits, stunning photos and clips highlight her unique beauty while Elvis Costello sings the entrancing "She" in the background. No stranger to the challenges of publicity, both good and bad, Roberts projects a clear understanding of her character. Complaining about the pitfalls of stardom, she admits being on a diet since she was 19. "I’ve been hungry for a decade," she confesses while trying to win a delicious brownie at a birthday party. Perhaps this isn’t acting at all. Maybe Roberts is just playing herself. Who cares? Either way, she's intriguing to watch here.
Exuding a self-deprecating charm that’s hard to resist, Grant (Four Weddings And A Funeral) captivates the audience immediately as the film’s narrator. "My wife left me for someone who looks like Harrison Ford," he begins. Considering Grant’s leading-man good looks, that’s hard to believe. Nevertheless, everything else this talented actor says or does rings true, thanks to his impeccable timing and great comic flair. Grant easily convinces viewers of his bewilderment when a famous movie star seems attracted to him after buying books in his humble shop. And when he poses as a journalist interviewing the cast of a film he hasn’t seen, he brings down the house.
"Did you identify with the character you played?" Grant asks one of the actors, who quickly answers "No." "Why not?" querries Grant. "Because I played a psychopathic, flesh-eating robot!" replies an exasperated thespian.
The screenplay by Richard Curtis, who also wrote Four Weddings An A Funeral, bubbles over with sparkling dialogue. But one glaring editing error and a few unlikely situations (such as a celebrated star agreeing to change her clothes in a stranger’s apartment) mar this otherwise first-rate production. Director Roger Michell, so thorough in his work on Persuasion, let a serious mistake slip through. In one key scene, Roberts apologizes to Grant for her rude behavior of "last night." Yet in between these two sequences, Grant has been seen with a variety of women in meetings arranged by his sister and friends during a time span of many nights.
Thankfully, Roberts and Grant more than make up for these shortcomings. Because of their appealing performances, I had a delightful two-hour visit to Notting Hill.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language.)