So I watched Notting Hill…
I don’t know what it is with me and romcoms. Perhaps it’s the hope they give me for my own often dysfunctional love life, maybe I just enjoy cheesy lines of dialogue and kisses in the rain; but I can’t help but love them. When they’re done right they can serve as a fantastic (albeit overly dramatised) guide to the gruelling and beautiful journey that being in love can be.
Okay, basic plot: William Thacker (Hugh Grant) is a rather unremarkable man living in Notting Hill. William owns a small bookshop which loses more money than it makes and lives a good life filled with friends and family. William’s sedentary life is given a shot of pizzazz when a famous Hollywood actress – Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) – casually walks into his bookshop. Through a series of bumbling exchanges – and against all hope – the pair find themselves falling in love. Though Anna’s larger-than-life lifestyle may have no space for real love.
My favourite thing about this film has to be Hugh Grant. I think we all have to agree that Grant is the undisputed King of Romcoms. A large part of this is due to the bumbling swagger he brings to each role. It’s extremely authentic and helps you connect with his character because you can see yourself doing the exact same thing put in that situation. Julia Roberts puts in an understated turn in this film. She barely ever leaves second gear, honestly, there’s no reason for her to but even moving at half-pace, her performance is entertaining and fun to watch. She also has terrific chemistry with Grant and the two play off each other wonderfully.
Another great thing about this film is its sincerity and authenticity. My favourite scenes in the film aren’t necessarily those with Grant and Roberts looking lovingly into each other’s eyes; but rather those that feature Grant’s character’s friends. William’s friends and family are a large part of this film’s story and they go beyond just filling up the numbers and manage to make themselves memorable in their own right. The exchanges between the friends helps keep the film grounded and planted in reality. The friends are necessary in order to serve as juxtaposition for the glamour and insanity of Anna’s celebrity life and this is an aspect of the film that could have easily been glossed over; but thankfully, screenwriter, Richard Curtis (and the respective actors) treat this aspect of the film with respect and thoughtfulness.
I also have to give director, Roger Michell some credit. Now this being a romcom, you don’t expect much from the director. No one ever watches a romcom and thinks, “wow, those camera angles where absolutely genius…”. Michell does though have a moment of great inspiration about halfway through the film. There’s a scene where the film transitions through a few months in quick succession and instead of a dreary montage or cliche time-lapsed photos, Michell displays this passage of time with a continous shot through a busy street. Each section of the street represents a season – with accompanying weather changes – and I thought this was a really intelligent way of visually telling the story.
Now with this being a romcom, there is a fair bit of grandiose romantic moments and cheesy pieces of dialogue; my favourite being when Julia Roberts’ character reminds us that she’s just a girl. I loved these moments but I did have a problem with the film’s soundtrack. I thought it was a little heavy-handed and beat you over the head with whatever emotion you were supposed to be feeling at the time. The songs often overpower the scenes instead of heightening their natural emotion. Though I do suspect that this was a trend of the time and not necessary due to poor work by the film’s composer.
Overall, Notting HIll is a wonderful romcom and displays the pain and torture that falling in love with someone can be and how this torture is insignificant if the person is right. It’s the month of love so grab your partner, put this film on and cuddle them close.