Monday, July 3, 2017

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #169 - Notting Hill (1999, dir. Roger Mitchell, writer Richard Curtis)

William: “It's as if I've taken love heroin, and now I can't ever have it again.”

Recently I found myself watching a much-overlooked 2013 film called About Time, which was written and directed by Richard Curtis. Curtis famously wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Love Actually (2003, which he also directed), Pirate Radio (2009), as well as Notting Hill. After finishing About Time, which ended up being one of the better flicks that I’ve seen recently, I felt the overwhelming urge to return to some of Curtis’ earlier work, which of course began with my return to a favorite romantic comedy of mine, Notting Hill. While on the surface Curtis’ film from the late nineties starring rom-com staples Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant seems as if it would be just another throwaway popcorn film from an era littered with such entertainment, Curtis successfully elevates the genre through fantastic dialog, performances, and the twists and turns of an almost Shakespearean narrative.

The story follows the relationship between William Thacker (Grant), the owner of a Travel Bookstore (not a Traveling book store, a Bookstore that only sells travel books), and Anna Scott (Roberts), the movie star who William randomly spills juice upon. After an initial fumbled first encounter and a few quick-witted flirtations, Scott decides to explore the potential of being with a mostly normal guy. Asking if he would like to go on a date, Scott ends up accompanying William to his sister’s birthday party, which is only awkward for a brief moment before everyone just accepts her for who she is and the two have an amazing first date. Upon returning to Scott’s hotel, they find her famous movie star boyfriend waiting for them to foil their date. This is merely the beginning of the rollercoaster of a Shakespearean comedy. Time passes and the two continue to bump into each other, both by happenstance and design, and share a number of moments, always having those moments dashed by reality. While both of them try to move past their mutual attraction, they seem to be drawn to each other in an odd way, but will they ever truly find each other?

While the plot is reasonably simple, the charm of this film, as with most all of Richard Curtis’ films, is in the dialog and the way that he is able to create an immersive world, brilliantly transporting the audience through a narrative that stunningly reflects the complexity of life. Every aspect of Notting Hill has been perfectly crafted in order to create this narrative, and while the direction and cinematography tends toward a more basic and restrained style, that only allows the dialog, narrative flow, and the performances from Grant, Roberts, and the entire supporting cast to shine through, producing a film that begs for repeated viewings. I saw the film shortly after it was released in 1999, and have since found myself drawn back to Notting Hill, usually annually.

In the end, the real reason that I wish to turn you onto this movie is the fact that it a perfectly successful romantic comedy, which in my experience (yeah, I’ve watched hundreds of bad rom-coms) is rare and should be celebrated! The performances are charming, the dialog is witty and engaging, and the story is enchanting. Oh, and I’ve gotten this far into this review and forgotten to say that it is hilarious! So, if you’re looking to sit back, relax, and enjoy a killer love story that will have you uncontrollably smiling ear-to-ear throughout, then this is the perfect movie for you to take home today!

-         Edward Hill

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