My Favourite Films #4 Notting Hill

I caught some of this movie again the other day, and it still remains a charming, lovably sweet romantic comedy.

The film follows a regular guy, bookshop owner William (Hugh Grant) who happens to bump into American movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), the two are attracted to each other and begin to fall for each other. The film follows the ups and downs of their courtship, which runs into several obstacles along the way before they finally sort it all out.

Yes, there are times when its a little cheesy and there aren’t many surprises along the way, but its definitely one of the better rom-coms. This is down largely to a wonderful script from the rom-com king Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually), which manages to hit the heights in both departments. There are riotously funny moments along with some fantasic romantic sections of the film.

The scene where Anna and William lie in bed discussing mankind’s obsessions with breasts remains one of the post-sex scenes I can relate to most, an easy going, lighthearted chat between intimates who share jokes and seem utterly relaxed around their partner. It feels real and lends believability to their relationship.

A lot of humour is mined from the massive gap between their lives, especially a brilliant sequence where William is mistaken for a journalist and stages a series of cringe-inducing interviews with the cast of Anna’s latest film which he has never seen. The sequence is wonderful as Grant is brilliant at showing William’s bumbling awkwardness.

This is one of my favourite Grant performances, where his usual schtick works to great effect and his bumbling feels completely natural, who wouldn’t turn into a blabbering idiot when confronted with a major Hollywood actress? What I especially liked is the fact that there’s more to the character, and while he is awkward at times he’s also capable of being witty and charming, even brief flashes of genuine smoothness.

Grant also shows us that despite the initial attraction being largely based on lust that William quickly, and completely falls for Anna. There’s an extremely touching moment where after being rumbled by the paparazzi she says spending the night with him was a mistake she will regret forever.Grant shows just how much this wounds William, before delivering the heartbreaking line:

Right. Fine. I will do the opposite, if that’s all right with you…and always be glad you came.

While Grant is on fine form he has a great romantic lead to play opposite in Roberts, who is delightful here. Grant is a good looking fella, but in a “bloke in the street” way, but Roberts is gorgeous here. She looks every inch the movie star and stands out a mile.

She also manages to convey all of Anna’s insecurities in a sympathetic way- her fear of fading away, the pressures of being in the spotlight and her fear of being hurt by William all shine through. When she is cold or unfeeling to William during times of stress there’s a possibility that she might lose the audience’s sympathies, but after each mispoken statement Roberts manages, in small looks and expressions that she regrets it and feels bad, but the defences she has constructed around herself don’t allow her to make the apologies needed.

William falls faster, but Anna follows and Roberts does well showing the gradual softening of the superstar as she begins to let her defences down, culminating in the heart wrenching “Just a girl….” speech, which even after repeated viewings gets this soft git a little choked up.

And Chris chokes up in 3…2…

Roberts and Grant have great chemistry, and their attraction and relationship is believable because of this.

Great chemistry- Roberts and Grant

They’re helped by a fantastic supporting cast, particularly William’s friend. There’s his ex Bella (Gina McKee) now married to his best friend, Max (Tim McInnerny), who are a wonderfully strong, loving couple who provide support for his friend. Then there’s bumbling Bernie (Hugh Bonneville), who doesn’t recognise Anna and is even more inept socially than William. Also present is William’s hippy sister Honey, played by Emma Chambers, a rambling, demented ball of energy who’s endearingly batty. The scenes between this group of friends feel real and honest, as they affectionately tease each other.

But best of all, in a scene stealing turn as William’s flatmate Spike is Rhys Ifans. A hairy slob who loafs around the place, a constant swearing, inappropriate presence in the background he gets some of the film’s biggest laughs while also showing a curious streak of sweetness, particularly in the relationship with Honey that develops towards the close of the film.

Scene stealing- Ifans as Spike

The film is wonderfully, lovingly crafted and a touristy London is shot lovingly throughout, making the city look gorgeous. The pacing is a triumph, allowing the characters room to breathe and the audience to get caught up in the love story in a way lesser rom coms fail to achieve.

Curtis’ script is far and away the film’s strongest asset, but director Roger Michell does a great job, particularly a brilliant sequence soundtracked by Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” which shows the passing of time in a brilliantly edited tracking shot which shows that even as the months pass William’s heartbreak remains.

The climactic sequence is great, featuring a mad dash across town in traditional rom-com style and a sweet charming public declaration of love from William that wins back the girl and contains a callback to an earlier gag.

From start to finish this is a classy, entertaining and endearing rom com, and one of the best examples of the genre.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

3 thoughts on “My Favourite Films #4 Notting Hill

    1. My Mum made a similar comment when she saw the movie. I have to admit I’m not that familiar with the Aznavour version (just heard it for the first time on Spotify), but I’ve never had a problem with the Costello version used in the movie.

  1. It was such a beautiful film, it needed the best to finish the mood and only Aznavour’s
    voice could have done that.

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