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UK/USA 1999
Directed by
Roger Michell
125 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Notting Hill

Imagine that screenwriter Richard Curtis took all the Andie MacDowell-Hugh Grant bits from his hugely successful Four Weddings And A Funeral script and the producers replaced MacDowell with Julia Roberts. You'd end up with a rom-com about an awkwardly diffident Englishman in love with a beautiful American visitor. Which is, with the addition of Rhys Ifans as a masturbatory Welshman, is pretty much what Notting Hill is.

Grant plays William Thacker, the owner of an struggling bookshop in London's Notting Hill.  Roberts is Anna Scott, a celebrity Hollywood actress who wanders into the shop one day in this standard issue fol-de-rol.

Notting Hill isn’t so much a bad film as a hollow one. Indeed Curtis is a skilled screenwriter and Michell is an equally skilled director but the film is the cinematic equivalent of paid sex – a simulacrum of the real thing. There are probably a lot of people (evidently so as the film was a monster box office hit)  who wouldn’t grumble about that but the strategms are too apparent here..

The formulaic nature of the boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back roller-coaster ride (which relies on a particularly forced break-up), and the stock performances from all concerned try one's patience whilst one can't help but wonder about Thacker's inexplicable financial solvency (a trendy house in trendy Notting Hill surely can't be affordable on an apparently non-existent income).

The supporting characters, a wacky ugly duckling sister (Emma Chambers) and wheelchair-bound best friend (Gina McKee.contrast with the Roberts' allure whilst aside from Ifans the rest of the male cast are obliging dorks who equally serve to enhance Grant's cuddly appeal and so on and so on without the remotest attempt to try anything new in what is a carefully constructed “chick flick” that is well-suited to minimally-demanding tastes




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