Notting Hill (15)

Directed by Roger Michell
Starring Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans, Gina McKee, Tim McInnerny, Emma Chambers.

The much anticipated follow up to Four Weddings and a Funeral from top writer Richard Curtis and floppy haired favourite Hugh Grant is another winner. Different characters but the same basic format from Curtis as this time Grant plays William Thacker, a book shop owner who falls for an American, this time Julia Roberts as a character much like herself - a world famous movie star, Anna Scott. They meet by chance and Anna falls for William's boyish charms, but of course the path of true love never runs smooth in the movies. As with Four Weddings, Hugh Grant is surrounded by a group of witty chums including a scruffy Welsh flatmate named Spike and batty Emma Chambers as his sister who is also a big Anna Scott fan, and as with Four Weddings, there is a disabled pal, Gina McKee who is in a wheelchair.

Director Roger Michell uses London, and Notting Hill, very well indeed. This is a loving portrait of London on a par with Woody Allen's love letters to New York. We get the bustling lively streets, the beautiful little parks, posh houses and nice hotels and even the roads aren't too gridlocked! However, it is Richard Curtis' script and the actors who bring the film to life. Hugh Grant is the same as always, but delightfully charming. Julia Roberts comes over very well, although like Andi McDowell in Four Weddings, she seems out of place with the British comedy at times. I assume this is deliberate though; a look at the contrasting cultures etc, rather than just a marketing ploy so the film will do well in the USA. She can play a movie star with no trouble at all, and as usual looks fabulous. She also manages to convey the problems of fame quite well though, and with Roberts' track record, I guess the parts about the prolems of finding love when you are world famous ring true too.

Like that other film, there are also a few soppy and romantic bits, if you like that sort of thing, but Curtis' script is sharp and funny, and a few of his sitcom stars appear to help deliver his lines:- Tim McInnerny was in Blackadder, Emma Chambers is from The Vicar of Dibley. However, I didn't think the ensemble group of pals was as funny and varied as Kristen Scott Thomas, Charlotte Coleman, Simon Callow, John Hannah and the gang. Which in many ways is a pretty good summary of the film as a whole. Not quite as good as Four Weddings and a Funeral, similar in style, tone and script, with a good British cast and a pretty American star. A nice romantic comedy with more bad pop songs on the soundtrack! 7/10

May 1999

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