Notting Hill – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnery, Gina McKee, Emma Chambers and Hugh Bonneville Directed by Roger Michell Written by Richard Curtis Length: 124mins

Notting Hill, starring a phenomenal cast head up by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, introduces us to William Thacker (Grant). He owns a relatively unsuccessful travel book shop in Notting Hill; divorced and living in his ex marital home with his wacky tenant he is seemingly content to just bumble through life. That is until Hollywood Actress Anna Scott walks into his bookshop and subsequently his life. What follows is a love story with ups and downs, laced with good humour and undeniable charm.

Notting Hill is somewhat of an archetypal love story, it’s a fairly basic formula but it satisfies the hopes and expectations of it’s audience. Richard Curtis’ script is full of meet cutes, moments, disappointment and hope whilst being skilfully dispersed with brilliantly witty humour. I found the array of characters a really interesting element in this film, it feels like Curtis has pulled out his favourite stereotypes, fleshed them out a bit and enjoyed creating a world that they could all wander in and out of. The different characters do work for the story and definitely help with the humour; in particular Rhys Ifans as Spike and Emma Chambers as Honey but it’s the inclusion of characters like Bernie (Bonneville), Bella (McKee) and Max (McInnery) that captured my attention. While considering the peripheral characters it’s easy to be distracted by the loud presence of Spike and the kookie quirks of Honey; but having contrasting characters that seem very normal with very normal lives and situations alerted me to something a little deeper that Curtis was bringing attention to.

The whole film is about us and them. The audience likely to relate to William; a normal guy. He works a ‘normal’ job, has to clear up after his ridiculous housemate and spends time with his friends. Our leading lady is this gorgeous, glamorous super star. We see this life that very few people actually understand the pressures of and it grabs our attention when the two are thrown together in this quirky little story. Honey’s birthday meal is an integral piece of the film, we see the majority of our characters volunteering what makes them the saddest act at the table all for the last brownie. As we jump around the table learning a bit more about each character, we see a group of people, sitting around a table as we all have, sharing vulnerable parts of their lives. Whether people notice it or not, Curtis pulls down the barrier between us and them. A lesson that we don’t know what is going on with other people and accepting that although the struggles are very different, that everyone faces them at some point. 

The soundtrack is something that stood out while watching this film for what must be the hundredth time. This time I became aware that the music gives a real running commentary of the emotion of our focal pair. The lyrics of each song explain everything that we’re watching and it is arguably a bit sloppy. It’s not necessarily a problem, but I can’t help but think that more subtle choice might allow the audience to experience the action for themselves rather than being steered to how they should be feeling with a blast of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’.

In his role as William Thacker we see Hugh Grant as his perfected ‘awkward, witty, romantic lead’ and the truth is that he’s just brilliant at that role. It’s no wonder we’ve seen him take on so many similar roles in his career. Simply, he’s one of very few people that could do that part justice. Roberts is just sensational. She really seems to shine in her role as Anna, each scene seems to reveal layers of her work which ties together during that famous moment where she’s “just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”.

This movie is bright. It’s full of wit, intelligence and charm. It’s such an easy watch and if you haven’t seen it yet, I really recommend that you give it a go. It’s a classic feel good movie that oozes romance. Arguably one of the best movies ever made in the genre of romantic comedy, thanks to the incredible performances, flawless writing and wonderful direction.

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