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Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is the world's most famous movie star. William Thacker (Hugh grant) owns a travel bookstore in the quaint neighborhood of Notting Hill. When their paths cross, the couple comes to face the ultimate question: can two people fall in love with the whole world watching?
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And then there's Julia Roberts in the most heart-breaking break-up sequence in modern film. I learn something new about acting every time I see "Notting Hill" and watch Hugh and Julia NOT saying much, but their faces and body language say it all over and over again. She points at her gift, she says the most poignant passage: "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her." And walks out of his life, the life she had been seeking. Tears every time! BUT WAIT! There's more to come!
I've heard the attitude from numerous people, "Oh, Julia Roberts plays the biggest female movie star in the world. What a stretch. She's just playing herself." They do her a disservice. Frankly I'm amazed Julia's performance in Notting Hill didn't get an least an Academy Award nomination. But then crowd pleasing romantic comedies aren't good Oscar bait. Or is it that this woman has given us so much extraordinary work over the years we take her for granted? Watch the scene where Anna's talking to William in his bookshop, late in the film, trying to convince him to give her one more chance. Julia's totally believable as a woman hoping against hope she can salvage the best thing she's ever had in her life, even as she sees it slipping away. Admire the dignity, the barely concealed pain, as she realizes it's not going to happen. Truly, this is the work of a master actress at the height of her powers. During this scene Julia Roberts as Anna pulls you in, you're just dying inside right along with her.
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant have immense onscreen chemistry. William is such a thoroughly decent guy, sweet and witty and charming though slightly bumbling, it's utterly believable Anna would respond to his genuineness. He's everything she's ever wanted in a man but never had. Not since Julia's turn in Pretty Woman with Richard Gere has she had a male co-star with whom she's shared such perfect chemistry. Yeah, this is a mass appeal romantic comedy. And it does it very, very well. Notting Hill is on the short list of films I never tire of watching.
And in the end - as in Pretty Woman - the girl gets the guy for a wholly satisfying payoff.