Volume 93, Issue 4

Friday, June 4, 1999


Pat O'Callaghan croons a sultry song

Performances in Notting Hill make it worth visiting

Catatonia equally good and frustrating

Thirteenth Floor brings bad luck

Amsterdam takes you on a trip to the dark side

Rosie should practice what she preaches

Performances in Notting Hill make it worth visiting

LOVELY TEETH DARLING. RIGHT THEN. I'M OFF TO GET A HOOKER. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts compare chops in their new romantic comedy, Notting Hill.
Photo by Clive Coote

By Sara Martel
Gazette Staff

Simply put, this is a boy meets girl story. The twist? The boy is the guy next door and the girl is one of the biggest stars in the world.

Notting Hill pairs Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and A Funeral) with Julia Roberts (Stepmom) in a romantic comedy about a woman named Anna Scott (Roberts), a famous American actress, who meets and falls for William Thacker (Grant), the keeper of a small travel book shop in the West London suburb of Notting Hill.

The story follows the oddly combined couple through the obstacles and mishaps which inevitably occur with the collision of two drastically different people and their respective worlds. Surrounding Anna and William are William's supportive but star struck group of friends and family, each adding their unique and often bizarre personalities to otherwise typical reactions.

Of course, audiences may find it difficult to dismiss the irony of Grant playing a role dealing with the agonies of celebrity. However, despite Grant's questionable judgment in his personal life, professionally he is right on track with the smart and funny Notting Hill.

Richard Curtis' screenplay does have the makings of a hackneyed, odd-couple movie, but his focus on character development saves the film from becoming overwrought. Director Roger Michell does a beautiful job of making this a story specifically about Anna and William and not about every unlikely couple to ever meet.

Because Notting Hill depends so heavily on its characters for substance, the performances and casting had to be near perfection. Once again, the movie pulls through. Roberts illuminating smile, vivacity and indelible grace make for a character/actress union as blissful as that of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Roberts has been touted as the screen's sweetheart of the '90s and her performance here secures that standing.

Beside Roberts is Grant doing what he does best – playing the adorably nice British guy whose awkward stammering is only made more appealing with every squint of his blue eyes. Grant brings everything to Notting Hill that he brought to Four Weddings and a Funeral. This includes a chemistry with Roberts which seriously rivals the one he had with Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings.

While Grant and Roberts aptly supply the romantic aspect of Notting Hill, the comedy colouring the script can be largely credited to William's intriguing entourage of friends and family. The aptly cast Emma Chambers and Rhys Ifans deliver impeccable performances and help the story's wit shine. At the very least, this movie offers humour for those who romance is lost on.

Having sung the praises of the characters and portrayals, the film's weakness comes from an obvious source – the plot. The script itself is smart, funny and touching when appropriate. However, despite the impressive performances and clever writing, some may find the action a bit slow moving. If this is the case, hang in there. The film's tardy pace is forgivable in light of the finished product.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999