Remember Notting Hill (1999)? A Movie Perfect for the Holidays

by Mira

I had a chance to watch Notting Hill (1999) tonight on cable, and it was a wonderful experience. I found myself chuckling so many times.

They definitely don’t make movies like they used to. Hugh Grant seems to have vanished from the movie screen, and so has the style of romantic comedies of the nineties, with all their British humor and quirky scenes.

If you have been busy with other things in life and didn’t get to watch Notting Hill when it came out or later on cable, here’s the story, as Anna Scott (played by Julia Roberts) puts it: “a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” That’s the only really cheesy line in the movie, and unfortunately you have to hear it twice.

The film is actually quite a heart-warming ride, even if completely bogus in storyline. But I have to say it was refreshing to see a woman making the first move(s) – times have changed since All About Eve in 1950, where Gary Merrill very manly says “I like to choose who I go after,” or something like that (and with Anne Baxter as Eve trying to make her moves on him, it’s jolly well he does).

Julia Roberts in Notting Hill (1999)
Julia Roberts in Notting Hill (1999)
Notting Hill DVD, Collector's Edition
Notting Hill (Collector's Edition)

But back to Notting Hill. It’s a story about a famous American actress who falls in life with a British bookstore owner. It’s quite funny, because there’s a small cast there that spices up the storyline with lots of good scenes: a dinner in the family, which is supposed to be quite sad (they shoot for the last brownie by playing up the negative side to their life) but, directed well, turns out not to be overly sappy, lots of scenes with William Thacker's flatmate Spike (played by Rhys Ifans), including some with him flexing his muscles to the press, followed by (this is the good bit) some self-admiration in the mirror, and so on.

The thing is, there’s a lot of situation humor in this movie that’s missing from other rom coms. For instance, when William asks Anna Scott (played by Julia Roberts) to reconsider the terms of their relationship, he speaks in the third person -- an overused device -- but then the great bit is that someone in the audience provides the name for the person William talks about, saying “Thacker.” So William says something like, “So if this guy, Thacker . . .” I loved it. So easy to find a bit of comedy in these details, and yet they’re not doing it these days. In fact, Notting Hill, released in 1999, is not only one of the best of the decade, but probably the last rom com in this manner.

Notting Hill in a pack with Love Actually and two other nice flicks
Definitely, Maybe / Because I Said So / Love Actually / N...
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notti...

There was The Diary of Bridget Jones in 2001, and Hugh Grant did a good job, but the movie was simply done in a different vein, despite the superficial similarity in style. Then there was one where he is reunited with his daughter from the US – can’t remember what it was called. Also romantic and cute, but despite all of Hugh Grant’s funny dancing, it didn’t have the same sparkle.

Great Romantic Movies Collection

Notting Hill, Love Actually, About a Boy, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
The Romantic Favorites Collection (Bridget Jones - The Ed...

The kind of humor you see in Notting Hill just wasn’t there. It’s unbelievable what you can do with a terrace apartment, a bookstore, some hotel rooms, and a view of Kensington Gardens (I think), and one great view of some private garden in Notting Hill . . . if the script and actors are right.

What a good movie!

And it gets better each time. This was my third time seeing it, after many years, and, while I remembered some scenes, it was fresh in a lot of ways.

I think it would make a great movie to watch over the holidays. I seem to have started mine early.

P.S. Now that I had a day to think about it, I realized Bill Nighy is actually the new Hugh Grant. Watch Love Actually and you'll see what I mean. And Love Actually is actually pretty close to Notting Hill in tone.

Updated: 11/26/2013, Mira
 
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Mira on 02/06/2016

I liked Music and Lyrics too. Anything with Hugh Grant in it puts me in a very good mood. Unfortunately I heard him say in an interview that he's done with acting, or something of the sort. How can that be?

DerdriuMarriner on 02/04/2016

Mira, "Notting Hill" certainly is a charming romantic comedy even though I think I prefer "Music and Lyrics" with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant.

Mira on 01/08/2014

Yes, I loved it too when I saw it again after all that time, and I wouldn't mind watching it again now. :)

evelynsaenz on 01/07/2014

I just watched Notting Hill again the other night. It is one of my favorite movies. I got it in a set with Love Actually, About a Boy, and Bridgett Jones Diary. All great movies. Great review. I think I will watch it again. :)

Guest on 11/27/2013

Mira, You're welcome!

Mira on 11/27/2013

Yes, that's the one! No wonder I couldn't find it by looking at Hugh Grant's credits!! Thanks so much! :)

Guest on 11/27/2013

Mira, is it possible that you're thinking of "What a Girl Wants" with Colin Firth as the dad, Amanda Bynes as the daughter from U.S., and Kelly Preston as the "old flame"? That's the movie that came to mind when I was reading your reference to a Hugh Grant movie.

Mira on 11/27/2013

Oh, so "Love, Actually" is the one where he dances!! God, how could I forget that?:) I remembered the scene but thought it was from a different movie, where he is reunited with an old flame and their daughter. Any idea which movie that is?!

Guest on 11/27/2013

Mira, "Notting Hill" is a memorable romantic comedy! I've seen it several times; it's an easy, fun film to watch.
As for "Love, Actually", I love the scene in which Hugh Grant dances in his office as Prime Minister. And Bill Nighy is memorable in all that he does, not just "Pirates of the Caribbean," but everything.
Thanks for the reminder of "Notting Hill" via your review. It's about time for me to see it again.

Mira on 11/27/2013

Thanks, Nate! You will enjoy it :) Glad I made you consider watching this movie :)


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