Movie #226 2020: Notting Hill (1999)

Classic rom-coms! I implore you to dig me out of the creepy doll hell hole I just threw myself into!

Notting Hill is one of those movies that everyone has seen… except for me. If you’re an absolute alien like I am, I thought a synopsis would prove useful anyway. In short, Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts play the title characters. Grant is William, a lonely book shop owner in London, who lives with his good-for-nothing house mate, Spike (Rhys Ifans). On an ordinary day, Roberts’ Anna strolls into his shop, but there’s a catch. Anna is a global superstar actress, and everyone knows who she is. As you’d expect in a rom-com, the pair of them fall in love and we’re taken on the roller coaster that is their relationship.

On paper, that plot line is nothing out of the ordinary. The way it is story-boarded, framed, written… it’s nothing new. But somehow, it pulls a little big of magic out of its arse and becomes the most entertaining romance comedy I’ve seen in a long time. (Sorry, Sandler/Barrymore!)

What it gets so very right is the humour, and it utilises a weird mish-mash of one liners and grand, comedic gestures to a tee. It has that perfect mix of international type gags and British comedy that isn’t really in anything else I’ve seen, and no, I haven’t seen Four Weddings and a Funeral… yet. Plus, the cast! Notting Hill is rife with comedy legends such as the late, brilliant Emma Chambers and Rhys Ifans (the best character of the movie), who really prop the whole thing up. 

As for the leads? Yeah, I guess they’re an example of perfect casting. Hugh Grant had really good hair, didn’t he?! What was most hilarious was the dinner party sequence where Julia Roberts claimed she’d look old very soon, yet 20 years later she looks exactly the same. I guess that joke didn’t quite pan out as she thought it would. Anyway, whilst Grant isn’t the most attractive dude in the world, he does have that special charm that makes Notting Hill‘s story line completely plausible. And the hair doesn’t hurt.

A Richard Curtis classic, this is just a movie that knows what it is. It’s dream-like and fantastical, yet keeps a sense of realism about it. It’s really well done in that regard. But what it has over a lot of other similar films is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and doesn’t attempt to paint the relationship as some sort of fairy tale – it’s very British about everything, and that’s what makes it great.

You may have noticed that I’ve been quite critical of rom-coms in the past. They’re just not usually for me, and I’d much rather watch The Matrix than The Notebook, but Notting Hill is as good as they come. Though it drags for a little while smack bang in the middle, it doesn’t lose its way enough that you lose interest. 

If we were rating the rom-coms I’d seen all year so far, this would probably be at the number 1 spot.

Notting Hill is available to stream on Sky Cinema, Now TV and the BFI Player in the UK.

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