A washed up singer is given a couple days to compose a chart-topping hit for an aspiring teen sensation. Though he's never written a decent lyric in his life, he sparks with an offbeat younger woman with a flair for words.
Every man's dream comes true for William Thacker, an unsuccessful Notting Hill bookstore owner, when Anna Scott, the world's most beautiful woman and best-liked actress, enters his shop. A little later, he still can't believe it himself, William runs into her again - this time spilling orange juice over her. Anna accepts his offer to change in his nearby apartment, and thanks him with a kiss, which seems to surprise her even more than him. Eventually, Anna and William get to know each other better over the months, but being together with the world's most wanted woman is not easy - neither around your closest friends, nor in front of the all-devouring press. Written by
Julian Reischl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A modern Cinderella tale with English charm and humour
Can lightning strike twice? Well with writer Richard Curtis it has! I understand he wrote this screenplay and completed it before he realised just how similar it was to his previous hit, Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Let's examine this a second: Hugh Grant is the hero; There's an elusive and glamorous American that he falls for; He has a circle of friends, each in their own way a success AND a failure in life, and yet Hugh's character (William Thacker) is somehow trailing them all; there's the kooky yet endearing sister; the character with a tragic disability; a complete buffoon of a sidekick; and several near-misses.
Yet it's all so thoroughly entertaining, AGAIN. It's like a delicious dish, and its recipe for success is cooked up time and again by Curtis as Jamie Oliver's older and wiser brother.
As a single bloke in this day and age I AM William Thacker, and I AM Charles in Four Weddings. So on the one hand you'll have parts of the audience identifying with the hero, and parts of the audience wanting the hero to be their real-life partner. Yet character empathy alone is not enough to carry a film.
The path that the hero follows needs to be a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes it's up, sometimes it's down, but it's never boring. In fact, the pacing is assuredly steady just as, in one excellent scene, we see the indication of time passing in an extremely effective way. I feel that Curtis learnt from Four Weddings and tightened the strings on the time line in this movie. Where Four Weddings very occasionally crawls, Notting Hill paces along assuredly.
In addition, our hero's roller-coaster ride must be believable. Could this really happen? Why not? Do movie stars ALWAYS fall for other celebrities?
So what of the performances? Well Hugh Grant is really Hugh Grant (again) in this role. But isn't that why we go to see Hugh Grant movies? He's funny yet tragic, vulnerable yet assured, and I can't imagine anyone else playing William.
Julia Roberts is one of those stars who, love her or hate her, delivers in every role. She's very believable as Anna Scott, showing the resolute public charm of a movie star, whilst exposing the hidden human frailty behind Hollywood's finest. And this despite the undoubted (and wholly false) criticism that she's simply playing a movie star like she in fact is. She perhaps COULD have leaned back and simply ambled through the movie expecting it to be an easy role for her, but in a truly professional manner, she's sought to add depth and weight to her character.
The rest of the cast sparkle in their roles, most notably Rhys Ifans as Spike. But even without the requisite comedy set pieces that Rhys revels in, actors of class such as Tim McInnerny, James Dreyfus, Gina McKee, Emma Chambers and Hugh Bonneville expertly fill in the no-less important landscape of this joyous and warm piece of art.
Watch out, too, for memorable cameos by Alec Baldwin, Mischa Barton and Matthew Modine.
So who is Cinderella and who is the Prince? At first glance William is the hopeful nobody. But really, as the story develops, we'll see that there are two character's dreams unfolding in Notting Hill.
Why then not 10 out of 10? Well, full marks would have been ME starring as William Thacker... ;)
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