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Notting Hill (A Movie Review)


Starring Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Hugh Bonneville, Emma Chambers, James Dreyfus, Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee, Emma Chambers, Emily Mortimer, Lorelei King, John Shrapnel, Roger Frost, Dylan Moran and Alec Baldwin.

Screenplay by Richard Curtis.

Directed by Roger Michell.

Distributed by Polygram Films. 124 minutes. Rated PG-13.

It is not easy to make a good romantic comedy. Therefore, we should consider ourselves lucky that screenwriter Richard Curtis has re-teamed with his Four Weddings & A Funeral star Hugh Grant for this sumptuous helping.

Grant plays a William Thacker, a struggling bookshop owner whose life is literally turned on its axis when superstar actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) happens into his shop. They slowly, believably fall for each other. But of course, the extremes of their differences and Anna's living-in-a-fishbowl lifestyle conspire to keep them apart.

The film is very savvy about Anna's stardom. The snippets from Anna's "movies" are clever and convincing. As an entertainment journalist the press junket scene has even more of a clammy discomfort than it might for outsiders, but it's very funny either way. Roberts plays a character suspiciously like herself with verve and humor. Grant is even better and much surer of himself than he was in Four Weddings. As a couple they generate real sparks.

Also, like in the earlier film, the two leads don't have to carry the whole load themselves – a likably eccentric cast of friends surrounds them. Particularly funny is Rhys Ifans as Grant's Neanderthal lodger Spike.

The direction is also exquisite. Little touches like a scene where time passage is shown by Grant walking down a street as the seasons change around him or a God's-eye-view of the couple trying to allow themselves to be together in a private garden are breath-taking in their simple grace.

The screenplay is crackling with one-liners and smart dialogue. Some of the pressures-of-fame subplots fall a little flat, but Notting Hill is as good and good-hearted a comedy as you're likely to see this year. (5/99)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright © 1999 All rights reserved. Posted: May 13, 1999.

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