Let me just say that I'm not particularly a Julia Roberts fan. So when my wife asked to go see Notting Hill in the theater, I politely declined... but I figured that I'd give her a suprise and buy the DVD for her. Well, I sat and watched it with her, and was pleasantly suprised, myself!
Set in the real-life Notting Hill section of London, this VERY fairy-tale story is filled with moments of true belly-aching laughter, painful heartbreak, and one delightful "car chase."
Julia Roberts portrays Anna Scott, a fifteen-million-dollar per picture movie actress who gets tangled in the trappings of love with William Thacker, a bumbling, but likeable book-shop owner convincingly played by Hugh Grant. Notting Hill wastes no time in setting up this premise and rockets off from there. The film moves along at a good pace and only has one noticible slow spot. The music chosen to accompany the film is beyond perfect. Watch the screen closely when you hear "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers.
I would be remiss if I did not mention "Spike". Rhys Ifans plays Spike, William's very odd, very Welsh flat mate. You can't help but laugh every time he's on the screen. Luckily, the director and editor didn't over-do Spike's antics, so we can truly enjoy the moments when he's on.
The Collector's Edition goodies make the DVD a true gem and a great bargain. The musical highlights let you quickly jump into the middle of the movie to enjoy a song while watching the movie roll. (After you've watched the movie, go find "Ain't No Sunshine"!) The deleted scenes give a glimpse of what could have happened in the film. After watching, I'd say that I agree with the director's choice of endings.
This movie proves that romantic comedies can still be done well... and you don't have to have Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to do it.
Hugh Grant's role as Travel Book Shop employee William Thacker reprises the same shy, humble, lovable, but lonely character with a small group of friends that made him a star in Four Weddings And A Funeral. That may be because Notting Hill, like FW&AF, was written by Richard Curtis. "And so it was another hopeless Wednesday when I walked a thousand yards to work, not suspecting that this was going to be the day my life would be changed forever." In two words, that catalyst is Anna Scott, currently one of Hollywood's biggest stars, who is promoting her latest film Helix, a sci-fi film whose costume design and one interior setting owes a nod to Kubrick's 2001. She happens in his bookshop, but that first meeting sets off a series of meetings where they spend time with each other.
Eccentric barely describes Spike, his Welsh roommate with a shock of wild blond hair. Never have I seen a more comical opposites since Felix and Oscar of the Odd Couple. Spike is clearly the Oscar of the pair, but then again, I doubt if Oscar would have worn a T-shirt saying, "Get It Here", with an arrow pointing downwards, or unwittingly mistake mayonnaise for yogurt.
In the course of meeting Anna, he in turn introduces her to his small group, including a married couple, Max and Belle, the latter in a wheelchair, a stockbroker named Bernie, and William's wild-looking sister Honey, whose bulging eyes and feathery hair makes her nevertheless lovable in a different sort of way.
However, they live in two different worlds. As William puts it, "I live in Notting Hill, you live in Beverly Hills." Both have different schedules, lifestyles, and perspectives on things. Yet his inner smile lights up whenever she pops in and spends some time with him. And applying a metaphor used, Anna is a goddess. "You know what happens to mortals who get involved with the gods?" That's terrible for William, who confides in Spike that it's like "taking love heroin and I couldn't have it again. I've opened Pandora's Box and there's trouble inside."
Anna is a typical box-office draw who has to put up with the tail side of the fame coin. The many boyfriends, the laying out of her private life in the tabloids, but also how she's unable to live an ordinary life and how she has to put up with unkind words, as when she overhears a group of businessmen saying how actresses are equal to prostitutes and that she is the definitive actress. Ouch! But despite the fame, in the end, she's "just a girl asking a boy to love her."
The one pullback aerial shot that has the couple approaching the bench dedicated to a loved one, while Ronan Keating sings Keith Whitley's "When You Say Nothing At All" was a perfect combination of great camera work enhanced by a haunting love song.
Hugh Grant has another winning role and seems to have the knack of starring opposite great female leads and being compatible. Be it Andie McDowell (Four Weddings) or Emma Thompson (Sense And Sensibility), he does himself and Julia Roberts great credit. After seeing this at the theatre when it first came out, I sighed with relief that I finally found the most charming movie with Julia Roberts since Pretty Woman. All the actors portraying Williams' small circle also lend great support, but Rhys Ifan steals the show as the outlandish Spike. Those who liked Four Weddings will definitely go for Notting Hill, which has a tad more sweetness, like apricot and honey.
on July 2, 2000
I was hesitant to see this film at the theater.I enjoy Hugh Grant but never cared much for Julia Roberts.Well,being a DVD and home theater nut,I decided to check this out..PLEASENTLY SURPRISED! ..First Hugh Grant is just fantastic.In a way,his character can be discribed as the thinking mans Mathew Perry.Actually,their humor derives from similar delivery of lines..This is a delightful tale of the ever so polite,but aloof, British male,winning over the, seen to many shallow male actor movie star..Julia pretty much plays herself,with both touching honesty and charm..Tired of the world that incorporates her hollywood life,on a trip to England she finds herself drawn to Grants simple yet honest and gentle sincerity...Along the way,the typical trials and tribulations that would surely plague such a relationship appear..Yet,this movie demonstrates that regardless of our superficial world around us,something as age-old as love can lead to true inner happiness...A great British supporting cast make up this movie,and the scence stealing Spike is hilarious...Guys,this is not just a chick flick! Give it a shot with that special someone and you both will be the better off for it..!
on January 31, 2000
This is the best romanic comedy in 1999, in my opinion. It's a story about an actress (Anna Scott played by Julia Roberts) at the height of her career finding the ordinary man (William Thacker played by Hugh Grant) in Notting Hill (an actual place in the UK) and falling in love with him. The unlikely story of travel bookstore owner getting involved with a mega-star actress is a fantasy but then it's a movie... and their story is fun to watch. Their quirky romance struggles a bit while they try to find a common ground for the couple from opposite ends of the spectrum- and the movie tries to convey that even famous actresses have normal needs, too. Like love and the need to belong in the world. The secondary characters like Spike, Will's flatmate, Will's friends and sister just about steal the scenes. This movie is sweet, fun, poignant and a great happy ending. In the press conference scene at the end, when William and Anna stare at each other across the room, you can feel the love and hapiness. And the bench scene in the park is just about the sweetest ending. I've seen this movie several times and will see it many times more. ( Hey, even my guy friends liked it. )
on November 22, 1999
This is truly a lovely movie, and it has been a long time since a romantic comedy has been this enjoyable. This movie may remind you of "When Harry Met Sally" or "Sleepless in Seattle", where the couples are clearly meant for each other, yet have obstacles they must overcome. The acting and dialogue are superb! Hugh Grant, a world-famous actor, is completely convincing as an average bloke, while Julia Roberts goes by Anna Scott and plays herself, a "heavenly" movie star.
One review of this movie called it "pure fairy tale." As long as you can believe that it is possible for an actress to truly be a "good person," that she may actually want to live a relatively "normal" life outside of her acting career and may want to start a family of her own, then this statement is false. One specific scene mentioned as difficult to believe was the initial kiss that takes place quite soon after they meet. However, there are two reasons why this scene is believable. First, it is quite obvious that she is impressed from the start with his wit, sensitivity, and honesty, especially compared to the other men who are falling over themselves when they meet her. Secondly, this kiss may be a sort of test. In a city filled with reporters trying to get a story and her pictures plastered everywhere, her life has to be secretive as much as possible. Perhaps she wanted to see if she would be reading about the incident in the next day's paper before she allowed herself to get too close. She gave him quite the opportunity to brag to his friends or family, but he does not.
This movie is quite entertaining to watch the first, second and even fifth time.
on December 16, 1999
The writer of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," Richard Curtis, succeeds again in creating something incredibly funny yet poignantly romantic once again with "Notting Hill." Of course having Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant helps, too. These two actors were the writer's/directer's/producer's first choices and they fit their roles perfectly. Julia Roberts plays the gorgeous film star and Hugh Grant plays the slightly diffident, but nonetheless charming, British chap who falls in love with her. It's ending is somewhat Jane Austen-like but not overly sweet. This film also has a great supporting cast made but of British sitcom actors and one stand-up comedian. Altogether, it is a great romantic comedy!
on May 9, 2011
As Notting Hill is one of my most favorite movies I had to give it five stars. The Blu-ray picture looks great. The extra "Spotlight on Location" featurette (14.5 minutes) and music videos: "She" by Elvis Costello and "You've got a Way" by Shania Twain are a nice bonus. That said let me move on to a technicality. This is evidently a UK bluray edition? I am not a terribly observant guy. No nitpicking here, but even I noticed that the final song during the credits: "No Matter What" was missing. Instead we hear "From the Heart". I double checked with my dvd copy and I was not mistaken. I have no idea what else might have been changed. I have no intention of running the two versions side by side. I will leave that to others more interested. I didn't notice anything else on the first run so I am satified, but..... Oops, just noticed that the feature commentary from the dvd version is missing.
on April 13, 2000
I've wanted to see this film for ages (i secretly like the occasional romantic comedy) and I had no preconcieved ideas what the plot was going to be about. I thought it very well done, with just the right amount of humour and romance to make it an entertaining but not over slushy movie. Huw Grant as usual playing a well spoken English gentleman, who falls in love with the wonderful Julia Roberts, who plays a very famous filmstar who he accidently spills orange juice over on a London street. This sparks a chain of events that will give him the opportunity of either everlasting happiness or heartbreak. It's not an amazing film, but has a very endearing side and a perfect evenings entertainment if there are people in the room who can watch non-action movies, you should definitely see it.
on March 21, 2002
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant each appeared in two movies in the summer of 1998. Roberts starred in the smash hit, Runaway Bride, while Grant had top billing in the unsuccessful Mikey Blue Eyes. All this proves is that she can carry a picture, and he can't. Business and star politics aside, Notting Hill is easily the best summer movie they were in.
The plot is as preposterous as they come, but this is permitted in romantic comedy. Grant plays William Thacker, who runs a little travel bookstore on Portobello Road in London's Notting Hill district. Roberts is Anna Scott, the biggest female movie star on the planet. This is amusing in itself, since Roberts is exactly that in real life. On location in England, Scott wanders into William's shop one afternoon. He doesn't even recognize her until a customer does. Later, he runs into in the street, where he spills orange juice all over the both of them. Accepting an invitation to clean herself up, she goes to his flat. Emotions begin to smolder. What unfolds is by the book boy meets girl, boy loses girl, etc., but it's all done in witty, bright and sophisticated fashion.
Notting Hill utilizes two of the oldest Hollywood romantic devices - the two main characters have failed at love, and they come from social scenes that are polar opposites. Its writer and director are shrewd enough to know that these are tensions which can add the comedy to romance. She flounders in his world, and we laugh. He stumbles in hers, and we laugh still more. Even in the inevitable scene where their world collide, and the romance seems doomed, we find amusement.
This is the best and most successful British comedy [excluding their trademark period pieces] since Four Weddings and a Funeral, which also had but one major American character. We get a parade of those eccentric English characters we adore. By far the funniest is Spike [Rhys Ifans], who is William's ditzy, clueless flat mate. Most of his best scenes cannot be written down for a family publication, but I can say that they are bawdy, as opposed to tawdry. Spike does not know how to dress, how to carry on a conversation longer than two sentences or how to react normally to life's simplest situations. He may be the one character who is most likely to also exist in the real world. Ifans is almost assured of receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination next spring.
Roberts and Grant are in top form. She doesn't grin her way out of every emotional moment, and he keeps his trademark stutter in check. It's hard to say how much real chemistry there is between them, but it hardly matters, because they are two of the most charming and affable actors on the screen today. Their performance are right up their with what I consider to be their best - she in My Best Friend's Wedding, he in Sense and Sensibility.
The photography is excellent. One scene, in which William walks along Portobello Road as the seasons change, is remarkable. It's one of those complex-to-do creations that comes off as seamless and simple. Also of note is a moment where Spike, in his underwear, unwittingly opens the flat door and walks into a sea of screaming, photo-snapping journalists. It is a classic comedic moment.
I don't think it matters all that much that the plot is a tried and true one. After all, the point isn't whether or not you paint a landscape, but how well you paint it. If Notting Hill were a painting, it wouldn't be a masterpiece, but it would be very pleasing to the eye nonetheless.
on February 16, 2000
I generally do not appreciate "chick flicks," which is what i thought this would be, until i saw it. it was funny, romantic, and had a great deal of class as well, which is truly an achievement for a movie of this genre.julia was both funny and serious, and she truly portrayed this character excellently. i would recommend this scintillating film to anyone who either likes romance or likes julia roberts. even if you aren't a fan, you'll get a good laugh!