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Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill poster.jpg

Julia Roberts hasn’t been the world’s biggest movie star for nothing. And in this Richard Curtis/Working Title romcom, she’s Anna Scott, coincidentally, the world’s biggest movie star who finds herself … in Notting Hill, taking a look at the wares in a travel bookstore owned by Will Thacker  (Hugh Grant). In a recent romcom doc it was astonishing to learn that Curtis didn’t want Grant to star in Four Weddings because he was too handsome and charming. He wanted someone who looked like him. Cooler heads prevailed. Well, he got his lookalike, in About Time (Domhnall Gleeson) and we know how that went, eh? Romantic comedy is perceived to be quite possibly the most popular of film genres and its characteristic narrative is based on the superficially mismatched heterosexual couple, finally reunited in their pursuit of love once a number of obstacles are surmounted.   Will has a ramshackle house in a mono-ethnic street (ie not Notting Hill, according to the social critics) with an allegedly hilarious lanky room-mate Spike (Rhys Ifans) and he socialises with fellow poshies Hugh Bonneville and his crippled wife who like to host suppers in their wheelchair-friendly home. Anna wants to live a quiet life away from the publicity attracted by her recent breakup and she and Will … well, you know. This is the pre-millennial culmination of a decade of politically correct posturing and transatlantic fumblings by Curtis which commenced with his apparently transgressive inclusion of both a deaf man and a gay couple in the screwball-lite Swiss-watch-like Four Weddings and a Funeral (Newell, 1994); and here we collapse those ABC categories into a paraplegic woman while the wondrous Charlotte Coleman (TV’s Marmalade Atkins) is replaced with the ‘kookie’ Emma Chambers. In both films the disabled (!) characters’ abilities to communicate in a kind of Scotch semaphore gifts them with the ability to discern the course of true love’s path and provide direction to the misguided. At the end what is entirely absent in the astonishingly lazy script – tangible sentiment  – is supplied by an utterly beguiling take on ‘She’ (‘Elle’) by Elvis Costello, for a film that simply does not deserve it. Thank goodness for Julia! She really is fabulous.

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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