What You Need To Know:
Romantic worldview with heavy pagan elements & a moral ending; 41 obscenities & 12 profanities plus many sexual references; no violence; bedroom scene with implied fornication & blatant sexual discussion; obscured rear female nudity, male clothed only in underwear, upper & partial rear male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, frequent lying portrayed as acceptable.
The appealing Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant star in the cartoonish, childish romantic fantasy NOTTING HILL. After seeing TEA WITH MUSSOLINI where innocence and naiveté are revealed so from the inside of the character, NOTTING HILL is a cinematic letdown. The happy ending and appealing stars may attract audiences, but, otherwise, it is a weak cartoonish movie, whose backstory does not add up to a full plot.
Hugh Grant plays William Thacker, who owns a travel bookstore in London’s Notting Hill section. One day, superstar Anna Scott walks into his economically beleaguered store. She just made $15 million on her last movie, but is attracted to the cute William, or Will, who has not been successful in love for some inexplicable reason. His first wife even ran away from him.
After Anna leaves the store, Will goes after some orange juice. On the street, he accidentally bumps into Anna and spills juice all over her, and takes Anna to his nearby apartment to clean up. When they part, Anna is so smitten with Will’s wry, self-deprecating wit and honesty that she calls his apartment to get him to come visit her. His loony roommate, one of the most obscene and obnoxious creatures in film history named Spike, forgets to tell him that this mega-star called.
When Will does find out, he runs over to the Ritz and gets humorously embroiled in a press junket, lying that he is a member of HORSE AND HOUND magazine. This press junket scene is one of the few well-written scenes in the movie, but it will probably go over the heads of most people because they have not attended press junkets. Eventually, Will takes Anna to his sister’s birthday party. His sister and his friends are real cartoons, but Anna seems content to break away from the world of fame and fortune.
Will and Anna’s relationship develops to the point where they go to bed together, a modern Hollywood convention. This illicit relationship ends in disaster when the doorbell rings, and Will answers it in his underwear, only to be confronted by mobs of photographers. Anna is furious because she is sure that Will’s roommate Spike has spilled the beans deliberately to make money and knows that their affair will be all over the tabloids. This debacle drives Will and Anna apart; however, as expected in a romantic comedy, all ends well, and the ending almost redeems the movie.
NOTTING HILL is the type of movie you want to like, even more so because it ends in marriage. The road to get there, however, is not only morally rocky, but also poorly paved in terms of directing, acting and script. Hugh Grant plays William Thacker as a naive puppy dog. However, his backstory suggests that he should have been more mature. He certainly makes some whoppers of mistakes.
This movie is a high school fantasy – a worldly, wealthy movie star suddenly discovers the shy, nice guy on campus. Of course, the roles used to be reversed. It used to be the nice shy girl who got discovered by the wealthy industrialist. However, whichever way you tell the story, it doesn’t ring true here because these people are too old. The fantasy is too far-fetched. The story doesn’t give us enough background to discover why glamorous Anna is attracted to this loser except for the fact that she knows that her fame will run out, and she is looking for a nice guy.
More of the rubble along the way of the story are the characters who inhabit Will’s world. Most of them are drawn as very cartoonish, almost like SPACE JAM meets SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. This is hard to describe, but don’t bother to see the movie to figure out how shallow in character these characters really are.
Thus, the biggest artistic problem of this movie is that the director doesn’t help the actors discover their characters, but rather relies on caricature. The worst part of the movie is, of course, the obscene humor and foul language, especially from Will’s roommate, and the fact that the two leads end up in bed together before marriage in a nod to today’s pagan amorality. NOTTING HILL is counter programming to STAR WARS and other summer action adventure fair. Perhaps, it will find an audience, but the audience will not find what they are looking for in NOTTING HILL.