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About a girl, asking a boy to love her.
on September 6, 2003
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.