Just the facts (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).
Director: Roger Mitchell. Writer: Richard Curtis. Plot Outline: The life of a simple bookshop owner changes when the most famous star in the world walks in his shop and kisses him. Julia Roberts: Anna Scott: Hugh Grant: William Thacker: Tim McInnerny: Max. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language. 123 minutes.
Too long for a romantic comedy!
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Are there two movie actors in the world who bring more baggage to their parts than these two (with the possible exception of Woody Allen)? Notting Hill makes one of the most compelling cases I've ever seen for letting the work speak for itself.
Forget everything you've ever heard or read about these two and just sit back and enjoy their performance in one of the most nicely crafted romantic comedies of the year.
If Meg Ryan is the gold standard against which all romantic comedy actresses must be compared, (Establishing an enviable track record of quality in Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and French Kiss), then I feel safe in calling Julia Roberts the new Meg Ryan, based solely on this film. She's pretty and innocent in a special way and has a nice touch with droll irony and light, self-deprecating humor.
Hugh Grant will probably never be the new Cary Grant. But now that he's apparently come to his senses after a brief foray into drama and returned to his metier, drawing-room comedy, we can look forward to a productive and entertaining career output--as long as he sticks to his knitting and doesn't try to "stretch."
I need to relate an anecdote here. This morning I was playing doubles with a men's tennis group and mentioned that I had seen Notting Hill. A fellow player, 73, a retired Chevron executive, told me he really loved Julia Roberts. Couldn't put his finger on it, but it was a special twinkle, and he'd go see anything with her in it.
I'd heard of this phenomenon but never witnessed it first hand before. I am not susceptible to it myself, but it was kind of breathtaking to run into it up close and personal. This is liable to carry Julia a long ways, through any number of bad choices (and good).
I should warn you (as I was warned by the San Francisco Chronicle) that there are several false climaxes in the film. I like their advice, so I'll repeat it here: if you don't like the ending the director picked, you can always pretend the film ended at one of the previous false climaxes.
The story goes like this: Hugh, divorced, has a comic relief roommate, Max ("think of the stupidest person you know. Now double it," he says by way of description at one point). Hugh runs a book shop. Julia stops in one day. A few minutes later, he spills an orange juice on her. She goes to his house. They kiss. He goes to her hotel and finds out how famous she is. They date. Her boyfriend shows up. They break up. She needs a place to hide, they get back together. They break up. And so it goes (can't give too much away).
The supporting characters are decidedly minor and supporting. They exist solely to move the plot along, which they do competently and professionally.
There is some coy talk of sex, but only one or two "f" words. There is one bedroom scene, but it's the next morning, and nothing is visible. During that scene, there is a discussion of breasts, but it is relatively innocent.
If you like romantic comedies, you'll love Notting Hill.