Grant and Roberts Romance gets Spiked
Whilst some people absolutely adore "Notting Hill" I don't, not that I think it's a bad movie but one which has a few nice scenes, a couple of clever story elements but other than that it is average. It just doesn't woo me as being truly romantic and fails to really make me laugh when it comes to the humour. But it does have some charm and as such it is pleasant enough to watch.
After literally bumping into world famous actress and beauty Anna Scott (Julia Roberts - Duplicity), humble book shop owner William Thacker (Hugh Grant - Music & Lyrics) finds his wildest dreams coming true as he not only shares a kiss with the beautiful Miss Scott but also starts to date her whilst she is staying in London. However their romance never runs smoothly when her American boyfriend suddenly appears on the scene, curtailing their romance before it had barely begun.
The storyline in itself is part of the issue, in fact despite not being that original and following a pretty formulaic turbulent relationship journey it is pleasant enough and worked reasonably well. It's just that although pleasant and well worked it doesn't really grab me and make me want to watch or care about William and Anna. Maybe I was expecting too much, but for some reason it just feels a little too light, as if a stock romantic idea was pushed to the limit and as such it just didn't win me over.
But then whilst the main storyline didn't win me over the sub plot about film star Anna craving for a normal life did. It's a nice story, maybe handled a little heavy handed in places, but works much to the thanks of Julia Roberts. In numerous scenes you can see in Robert's face the desire that Anna has to lead a normal life or at least one where she doesn't have to diet, put up with a jerk of a boyfriend or worry about what appears in the daily press about her. In the memorable dinner party scene there is something really special about Roberts's performance, delivering the joy of having a laugh with normal people yet the sadness of how she is forced to live her life.
What is apparent for me is that "Notting Hill" is more a series of memorable elements rather than an overly memorable movie. The aforementioned dinner party scene with William's kooky little sister Honey, played by the wonderful Emma Chambers, comes over all star struck is one of the most memorable and one of the most enjoyable. Plus there is the outrageous character Spike, played by Rhys Ifans, which is in no way real but it is hugely funny with the under pants/ press scene again being one of the most memorable. That's the thing, "Notting Hill" has these memorable moments, including the clever seasonal scene through the market, but other than that it is a very much a stock, turbulent romantic story line.
Now for some Hugh Grant is brilliant, and I will say he does have his days, but here as travel book shop owner William Thacker he is just annoying. Yes that means we get his bumbling, floppy haired, slightly naive character with the posh accent which for some is lovable but for me is annoying. The trouble for me is that Grant has been pigeon holed over the years often playing very similar characters and as such he has used this same character much better in other movies. But then opposite him is the delightful Julia Roberts as movie star Anna Scott and her performance for me is spot on, showing the slightly fragile undertone of someone not enjoying her life yet still strong enough to keep things in control. Together there is some quite surprising chemistry between Grant and Roberts, but sadly it doesn't make "Notting Hill" any more than pleasantly average.
Elsewhere it almost feels like a list of recognizable faces from British TV and movies with the likes of the already mentioned Emma Chambers and Rhys Ifans as well as James Dreyfus, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee, Hugh Bonneville all cropping up. Even in smaller parts are the likes of Sanjeev Bhaskar, Omid Djalili and Emily Mortimer. Even Alec Baldwin finds himself appearing in a small part.
What this all boils down to is that "Notting Hill" is a pleasant enough movie, but one which for me is average. It does though have some wonderfully memorable scenes with the dinner party one being the most entertaining as well as a nice sub plot surrounding the life of a film star. But aside from that it is not that memorable and with Hugh Grant yet again playing the bumbling English toff it just feels all too familiar to other movies.