Notting Hill - * * *

The idea behind Notting Hill is simple enough: Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant together in a romantic comedy. And even though the screenplay never gets much further than that concept, it carries it off surprisingly well. Julia Roberts plays a wonderful Julia Roberts, and Hugh Grant nails his role as Hugh Grant. Notting Hill achieves its goal, being both romantic and funny, it is just what you want in a romantic comedy.

Hugh Grant stars as William Thacker, a divorced Englishman who is the proprietor of a highly unsuccessful travel bookshop in London’s Notting Hill district. He lives with an eccentric roommate, Spike (Rhys Ifans), and spends his time searching for (yet never finding) the perfect woman.

In a role that must have been a terrible stretch, Julia Roberts portrays the incredibly famous actress, Anna Scott. In London to promote her latest film, Anna drops by William’s bookstore on a whim. One thing leads to another, and Anna and William start falling in love.

But can Anna and William truly have a discrete relationship? Or is the gulf between rich and poor, between common and famous just simply too large?

Obviously, neither Julia Roberts nor Hugh Grant have a tremendously hard time in this movie. Both merely seem to be playing versions of themselves. Julia gets plenty of chances to flash her golden smile, just as Hugh is given lots of opportunities to stammer appealingly. However, their personalities do have a certain spark, and even if the roles aren’t a stretch, they’re still appealing on screen.

The supporting cast is pleasantly colorful (or in the case of Rhys Ifans, a bit too colorful). They provide an amusing sideshow when you begin to get tired of Julia and Hugh’s showdown of mannerisms.

For the most part, Notting Hill is your standard everyday romantic comedy. There are a few moments that set it above the crowd, however. The film gets to take several knowing jabs at the movie biz and publicity machine. The press junket that William mistakenly wanders into is particularly apt and humorous.

There’s not much else in Notting Hill that would convert a hater of romantic comedies. This is strictly a genre affair. However, if the mere idea of Julia and Hugh getting together in a movie starts your heart aflutter, don’t worry, this movie does it right.

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