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(1999) (Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant) (PG-13)

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Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Romantic Comedy/Drama: A world famous American actress and an ordinary English bookstore owner try to carry on a romantic relationship while dealing with her fame and its effect on their romance.
William Thacker (HUGH GRANT) is a small book store owner in the London neighborhood of Notting Hill who specializes in travel-related books, which of course, means that traffic through his store in rather sparse. Thus, he's quite surprised to see Anna Scott (JULIA ROBERTS) walk in, since she is, after all, just a world famous actress and a beautiful one at that.

It seems she's in town shooting a movie and while the two have never met before, sparks immediately fly between them, although neither immediately acts upon their attraction to the other. Minutes later, however, when William accidently runs into Anna on the sidewalk and spills his orange juice all over her, he invites her to his flat across the street so that she can clean up.

Of course he's forgotten about his scatterbrained and somewhat bohemian flatmate, Spike (RHYS IFANS), but that doesn't matter because when Anna finally leaves, she suddenly plants a kiss on his lips. Although he doesn't hear from her for days after that -- it seems Spike forgot to relay a message -- the two eventually get together.

Their first big date is at a birthday party for his sister, Honey (EMMA CHAMBERS). There, Anna also meets William's now shocked and amazed friends, Max (TIM McINNERNY) and his wheelchair-bound wife, Bella (GINA McKEE), as well as Bernie (HUGH BONNEVILLE) who doesn't immediately recognize the star in his presence.

Things seem to be going great for the couple, but when her old boyfriend (ALEC BALDWIN) unexpectedly shows up and she has to return to the States, their relationship quickly fizzles. Another unexpected turn of events, however, reunites the couple. As they try another go at romance, they must constantly deal with their two disparate worlds and the fact that her inevitable and unavoidable fame may drive another wedge between them.

If they're fans of Roberts or Grant, or of romantic comedies overall, they most definitely will.
For sexual content and brief strong language.
  • JULIA ROBERTS plays a world famous actress who must deal with the inevitable and unescapable fame that has both its good and bad points. She does sleep with William, curses a bit and reacts badly to the press discovering the former. We also learn that she did some nude photos early in her career.
  • HUGH GRANT plays a small bookstore owner who likewise sleeps with Anna and uses British slang for exclamations.
  • RHYS IFANS plays William's scruffy and earthy flatmate who smokes and is generally oblivious to how others view his slovenly behavior and appearance.


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    Despite their fame and fortune, movie stars are just ordinary folk who lead lives that aren't that different from everyone else. Okay, maybe that's not exactly true. It's quite likely, however, that many try, or would otherwise love to be able to go to the store, out for a walk, or on a date with their significant other without being identified by everyone, asked for their autograph, or having their picture taken by tourists or the professional paparazzi. It's most certain that they don't like their lives -- especially their failed or successful romances -- appearing in tabloid print.

    That's the underlying gist of "Notting Hill," a sweet and mostly winning romantic drama/comedy that reunites actor Hugh Grant with the writer and producer of the smashingly successful "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

    Comparisons between that movie and this one are inevitable and somewhat justified, what with Grant essentially playing the same sort of character who's surrounded by somewhat eccentric friends -- one with a disability -- and meets and falls for an American woman but is flustered by the complications of romance.

    Yet, where "Four Weddings" played as a romantic comedy and focused on the title's descriptive events, this one comes off as more of a bittersweet romantic drama with some comedic elements thrown in for good measure.

    While it has the initial signs of being a traditional romantic comedy -- the romantic setup, the charismatic supporting characters, the witty writing and clever dialogue, and the awkward, initial attraction between the two lead characters -- much of the lighter material dries up about half way through this two-hour long film.

    That's when it begins to focus more on the pitfalls of being famous. Taking a somewhat more realistic view of "celebrity-dom" than the recent "EdTV" or last year's "The Truman Show," director Roger Michell ("Persuasion") wisely chose two performers who not only click together, but are also no strangers to the paparazzi, tabloids, and having every minute detail of their lives -- usually the less favorable incidents whether true or not -- being exposed.

    As such Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant are believable in their roles and the chemistry between them feels realistic enough that you'll happily root for their success. In addition, few will be surprised when the filmmakers throw various obstacles in their way and have their relationship behave in the on-again, off-again style most romantic comedy fans are long accustomed to.

    Of course, that's to be expected, but some of the reasons/rationale for their reuniting occasionally feels a bit awkward or forced, with too much of screenwriter Richard Curtis' ("Four Weddings and A Funeral," "The Tall Guy") fingerprints on them.

    Nonetheless, the cast is what really make this film work. Roberts ("Conspiracy Theory," "Pretty Woman"), who can still wow audiences with a flash of that huge smile but can similarly touch them with a glance of vulnerability, is essentially playing this character in near autobiographical terms.

    While I'm sure she's not the same person as Anna, she's certainly experienced the pros and cons of being famous. It clear that her celebrity status has infringed upon her romantic life -- all of which has been exposed for all its glory in the press -- which clearly allows Roberts to play her character with both empathy and a "battlefield" edginess that doesn't seem out of place after years in the unforgiving spotlight.

    Hugh Grant ("Extreme Measures," "Nine Months"), who returns to the genre most suited for his usually somewhat reluctant, but sweet natured persona and character, is also no stranger to the repercussions of fame and bad decisions. Thankfully jettisoning the stammer that was cute in "Weddings" but became increasingly irritating in his later films, Grant delivers another good performance. Like Roberts, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, he's now cemented in the upper echelon of romantic comedy performers.

    The film's true scene stealer, however, is Rhys Ifans ("Dancing at Lughnasa," "Twin Town") as William's uninhibited and earthy flatmate. While some might complain that his character feels a bit too artificially constructed as a comic-relief creation, Ifans plays him with so much goofy gusto that you can't help but grin whenever he shows up.

    His appearance and then posing for the throngs of paparazzi in front of William's flat -- and just in his briefs -- is an instant and surefire audience pleasing moment. Other supporting bits by the likes of Tim McInnerny ("101 Dalmatians"), Gina McKee ("Naked") and Hugh Bonneville ("Tomorrow Never Dies") are all fine and perfect for a film such as this.

    The picture does offer some truly funny scenes, such as when William shows up at Anna's hotel to meet her, but is mistaken for a reporter on her latest film's press junket. Quickly scrambling for a periodical affiliation -- he chooses the first he sees, "Horse and Hound" magazine -- Grant offers some delightfully amusing moments as that impromptu and bumbling fictitious reporter. Forced to ask questions of the cast while keeping some of them related to the horse and hound theme, the sequence is quite funny.

    Another involves William's sister and his friends meeting Anna for the first time. That leads to some funny bits, but after a while the film begins to lose its overall humorous tone. Although some humorous moments do later occur, and the film retains the seesaw relationship factor found in most every romantic comedy, it decidedly turns into much more of a straight drama in its second half.

    While that's certainly not a fatal flaw, and the sheer charm and chemistry between its lead characters keeps the film afloat, fans of traditionally cheery romantic comedies may ultimately be a bit disappointed by the transition.

    Beyond the somewhat melancholy turn of events, the film does have a small detail problem. Not until they're needed as a plot catalyst do the paparazzi show up, an odd fact considering all of the time Anna spends outdoors or on the streets with nary a camera or gawking fan in sight. While it's understood that the characters needed time together by themselves to better contrast the press invading moment, I kept finding myself wondering where in the heck they were.

    It's a small point of contention, but others may have the same reaction. They may likewise wonder, despite several months passing by, why William -- after being discovered as Anna's "nighttime friend" -- suffers no paparazzi-related problems. After all, one would imagine that press coverage would be intense after the world's most famous actress has spent the night -- presumably for more than sleeping -- at your house.

    Nonetheless, and despite the obligatory, but still satisfying predictable ending -- as well as the inevitable and impossible to dismiss comparisons to "Four Weddings" -- this film still manages to be quite enjoyable and benefits greatly from good writing, a great cast, and the hard to resist romantic comedy genre. As such, we give "Notting Hill" a 7 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated, romantic comedy. Profanity is rated as heavy due to 2 uses of the "f' word (1 said, 1 written on a T-shirt). Other profanity and colorful phrases also occur during the movie. A sexual encounter is implied between the two leads (we see them in bed afterwards), some sexually related comments are made (or appear on a T-shirt), and brief, partial nudity occurs in the form of a man's underwear riding up/down on him.

    Some smoking and drinking occurs (with one character claiming that she's drunk), and some bad attitudes exist among various characters. Beyond that, however, the remaining categories have little or nothing in the way of other major objectionable material. As always, however, should you still be concerned with the film's appropriateness for someone in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • William talks about the neighborhood in voice over and mentions the guy who got a tattoo while drunk and doesn't remember why.
  • William and Spike drink what looks like beer while watching one of Anna's movies.
  • Max drinks wine while cooking and then everyone has wine with a birthday dinner.
  • Some men in a restaurant have beer.
  • William comments that his attraction to Anna is like having taken "love heroin" and not being able to take it again.
  • William and his friends have wine.
  • One of William's blind dates says to him, "Let's get sloshed."
  • William and some of his friends have wine again and later as William and Max drink some sort of liquor, Honey states that she's "horribly drunk."
  • Bernie drinks wine.
  • Spike wears a T-shirt that says "I love blood" and has a huge splatter of it on the front.
  • Someone tries to shoplift a book from William's shop, but William catches him and the man puts it back.
  • Not meaning to be rude, but simply from being lackadaisical, Spike doesn't tell William that Anna called.
  • Anna convinces William to sneak into a private garden/lawn area located between some private homes to be alone.
  • Anna briefly mentions that a boyfriend in her past hit her (not seen).
  • Some men in a restaurant -- not realizing that Anna is around the corner -- badmouth her and other actresses, equating them (and particularly Anna) to prostitutes with one saying that Anna "is so filthy, you could just flip her over and start again."
  • Anna's old boyfriend is somewhat rude to William as he thinks he's the hotel busboy (room service).
  • Some viewers may be upset to learn that Anna did some nude photo sessions early in her career (we don't see any of them) and that someone has recently released a videotape of those sessions (to make money or hurt her).
  • Anna gets mad at William once she realizes that the paparazzi has learned that she slept over at his place and she breaks off their relationship.
  • An actor on a movie set tells Anna that another actress' butt is so big that she could share parts of it with other women.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Holy f*ck," "Screwed" (sexual), "Daft pr*ck," "Bitch" (playfully said), "Balls" (testicles), "Moron," "Chicks" (women) and the British slang terms "Bugger," "Bollocks," "Bloody hell" and "Bloke."
  • We see a woman coming out of a hair salon with brightly colored hair.
  • Someone tries to shoplift a book from William's shop, but William catches him and the man puts it back.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 2 "f" words (1 written on a T-shirt in a sexual manner), 5 "s" words, 3 slang terms for male genitals ("pr*ck" and "d*ck"), 8 uses of "Bugger," 5 asses (1 said as "arse"), 4 damns, 3 uses of "Bollocks," 3 craps, 3 hells, and 8 uses of "Oh God," 5 of "Oh my God," 3 each of "G-damn" and "God," 2 of "For God's sakes" and 1 use each of "Good Lord," 'Oh Christ," "Christ alive" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • Spike models a T-shirt for William for a later date that says "Get it here" and has an arrow pointing down to his crotch. Another T-shirt says (on the back), "Fancy a f*ck?"
  • As Spike's pants ride down on him, we see the upper part of his bare butt.
  • Max asks William about Anna, "You haven't slept with her, have you?" When William says that he hasn't, Max believes that denial means he has and to prove his point then asks William, "Do you ever masturbate?" William again says that he doesn't, which Max believes proves his point.
  • Some men in a restaurant -- not realizing that Anna is around the corner -- badmouth her and other actresses (commenting on Meg Ryan as the one "who has an orgasm whenever you take her out"). He then equates them (and particularly Anna) to prostitutes with one saying that Anna "is so filthy, you could just flip her over and start again."
  • After William makes a comment about opening Pandora's box, Spike says, "I knew a girl named Pandora, but I never got to see her box" (slang for genitals).
  • William comments about a date saying that she "kisses like a nymphomaniac on death row."
  • When Max and Bella ask William if he'd like to stay over, he agrees stating that all that awaits him at home "is a masturbating Welshman."
  • Although we never see them, we learn that Anna appeared in some nude photos early in her career during a photo session that was also videotaped. During the story, those "steamy" videos are released (but not seen), causing Anna to worry because they make it look like she was doing a "porn shoot."
  • Noting William's feet, Anna tells him, "You know what they say about men with big feet...large shoes" (playing off the common sexually related rumor).
  • After Anna says that actor Mel Gibson does his own "butt work" (while she eats ice cream), she says "delicious." William then questions whether that was related to Gibson's butt or the ice cream, and she replies it's to both equally. He then asks about her licking his butt, causing her to (positively) say that the ice cream is tart and fuzz free.
  • Noting that Anna is sleeping upstairs and is in rebound mode having just broken up with her boyfriend, Spike tells William that it's prime opportunity to make his move on her and (what sounded like) "slip the wick."
  • William kisses Anna's neck (after she's snuck downstairs to where he was sleeping on the sofa) and then lowers her top (we only see her bare back). We then see them in bed the next morning, implying that they had sex. He then comments that it's somewhat surreal to see her naked and she replies "You and everybody else." She then goes on ask what it is about men seeing women naked, especially their breasts, since half the people in the world, including their mothers, have them. William then goes over, lifts the covers and looks at hers (we don't see anything) and then acts as if he doesn't have an answer.
  • We see Spike in his short and tightfitting jockey underwear that's riding up on him showing part of his bare butt cheek (and we then see him "flexing" his butt). Later, we see Spike comically posing outdoors in front of the paparazzi in similar underwear.
  • Upset that the paparazzi have discovered them, Anna angrily says, "Buy a book from the guy who screwed Anna Scott."
  • Anna shows a bit of cleavage in a dress.
  • Spike smokes around five times, while Bella, Max and Honey smoke once and a man on a movie set also smokes.
  • We briefly hear that William is divorced.
  • The trappings of being a popular celebrity (one's personal life being public, etc...).
  • None.

  • Reviewed May 15, 1999 / Posted May 28, 1999

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