This movie was good
But it was also quite dull
Hugh Grant is British
Me, stuck in an elevator with Bill Simmons
Notting Hill asks the question: how would someone react if they had to play it cool in front of a famous celebrity?
Hugh Grant answers this question in the Hugh Grantiest way possible: be cool, be quiet, be affable, be British, simper a bit, and stumble over words in every second of discourse. Not only does Grant’s character, William, nail it, he also nails the girl. That, my friends, is as impressive as it is staggeringly impractical.
Literally everybody has had this fantasy. Mine involves Bill Simmons, possibly the most-recognized face on the planet in the world of sportwriting. No, you perverts, I don’t want to nail Bill Simmons. But I can imagine being stuck in an elevator with him, and playing it so cool that he offers to be a point of contact before giving me a job as his understudy. Like William’s sister in Notting Hill, we all want to be friends with the people we admire, especially those who are particularly high in stature. And, like William’s sister, we all will most likely fall flat on our faces and admit in hysteria that we think we’d be best friends with said celebrity before they cast us away as another crazed fan.
Enter William Thacker, the smoothest mother fucker in all of England, who takes the arrival of movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) in stride and proceeds to fall madly in love with her before she breaks his heart at least ten times. Eventually, the two get together (spoilers! C’mon, it’s a romantic comedy, you knew it would happen), and you cheer/feel insanely jealous because you know that in a similar situation, you would do poorly.
It’s this feeling that makes the movie captivating. For some reason, I wanted to be Hugh Grant (what is happening to me?), or at least see him have success. As unrealistic as this whole plot was, I still found myself rooting for a happy ending.
There was one major issue I came across when watching Notting Hill, and it’s something that has already come up a few times in the first seven movies (especially Gigli, but let’s forget that ever happened). Namely, there were long stretches of the film that I found to be boring. Very boring. Maybe it’s because two-thirds of the run time is Hugh Grant struggling to say things, or maybe it’s a result of a single concept getting drawn out for two hours. I don’t know. It was, as I described above, captivating, but there were times when I found I would rather be doing other things. There was just this quiescent air about the proceedings that elicited a few more yawns than I would have liked.
Is this what it’s going to be like with every Hugh Grant movie? I’d hope not. Frankly, this movie had some very funny moments simply because Hugh Grant was on screen. I appreciated that. But he’d better pony up and give me some excitement because I know I’ll be watching a few more of his films and I want to be engaged. Please, Hugh Grant, do this one thing for me.
Still not as boring as Gigli, though, a movie I will continue to villify in my reviews because it’s the worst thing that ever happened.
Real first world problems
One of the best scenes in the movie involves Anna’s first dinner with William’s family. There is one last brownie, so the group decides that it will belong to whoever leads the most pathetic, boring, unsuccessful life.
Everyone takes their turn, including William – who is truly, truly pathetic in every way – and the brownie goes to him. Then, Anna pipes up and says that she hasn’t had a turn. The family scoffs, because how could a multimillion dollar actress have problems even remotely as debilitating as the average person?
What follows is an emotional testimony to the struggles many actors and actresses face, from public overexposure to meeting certain societal expectations. Not only does it humanize Anna’s character, it also provides something of a commentary on life. Everyone has problems, even the rich and famous. In the context of the movie, it was pretty powerful and was important to understanding why Anna would ever consider dating a bum like William.
Hugh Grant’s hair: It’s incredible. In the movie, he chides it and we learn that it earned him the nickname “Floppy” in school, but we all know the truth. This man’s hair is immaculate on so many levels.
Horse and Hound Magazine: There is a myriad of clever humor in Notting Hill that made me genuinely laugh and contributed to the 3.5/5 rating I bestowed upon it. One of the funniest moments is when William, invited to Anna’s suite but unaware it’s for a press event, dons a facade as a writer for Horse and Hound, a magazine that obviously has nothing to do with movies. The dialogue this scene produces is whimsical.
William: “I enjoyed the movie very much. I was just wondering, did you ever consider having more horses in it?”
Anna: “Well, we would have liked to. But it was difficult, obviously, being set in space.”
This Horse and Hound joke gets a lot of play throughout the film and it’s very welcome. There’s also something ridiculously British about it. I don’t know why. It works on so many different levels.
Sappiness Rating: 8/10. This was the romantic comedy’s romantic comedy. Again, genre cliches dominated. Again, the ending was cheesy as hell. I still liked the film, but I’m definitely finding that I enjoy less sappy movies if only because their lack of lovey-dovey romance means they are finding a way to subvert the rom-com niche. This didn’t do that.
Overall, a solid, solid film that I enjoyed a lot. There were numerous flaws and there were times when I wanted to watch paint dry instead, but I can see why it has such a following in rom-com circles (are rom-com circles even a thing? Who knows).
UP NEXT: I take a break from late-90s classics to watch Some Like it Hot, which I’m legitimately excited about seeing. It represents something different, hopefully. Also, Marilyn Monroe. It will be my first time watching a movie she stars in.