Sunday, March 26, 2023

REVIEW: Notting Hill (live action movie)

Notting Hill is a 1999 romantic comedy. I bought my copy used, I think.


An ordinary English travel bookshop owner has a chance encounter with famous American actress Anna Scott, which turns into a second chance encounter that ends with a kiss. The two are attracted to each other and Anna seems to like Will's family's awkward friendliness, but it's uncertain whether their budding romance can survive Anna's fame.

I'm slowly rewatching movies I remember enjoying years ago, and this was one of them. Wow, was this a weirder movie than I recalled it being. I completely forgot about the kiss at the end of Will and Anna's second encounter, for one thing, a moment which was made even weirder by the fact that she was the one who initiated it, for no apparent reason. Literally all Will had done up to that point was be awkward around her, give her a free travel book, spill coffee on her, and give her a place to get changed into clothing that wasn't coffee-stained. Why this made him stand out to her, among all the awkward men she must previously have met, I don't know.

One thing I realized while watching this: whether it was intended to be or not, it's basically a romance movie aimed at men. Its weirder aspects suddenly make sense, from that perspective. When I first watched it, I loved its "ordinary person ending up with a famous person" fantasy aspects, but during this rewatch its "romance definitely written by a dude" aspects were impossible for me to ignore.

By the time I got to the end of the movie, I had a hard time believing that Will and Anna would last more than a few weeks - the happy epilogue seemed more like wishful thinking than a believable continuation of their story. That said, this still managed to get by on the likeability of its largely quirky cast of characters. This is the movie that comes to mind when I think of Hugh Grant - it shows him at his most awkward, British, hangdog best (or worst, depending on your perspective). Will's friends and family completed the picture, managing to be simultaneously loving, supportive, weird, and depressing. 

I'd argue that the best romantic relationship in this movie wasn't Will and Anna, but rather Max and Bella. The scene near the end in which Max realized Bella was going to stay behind and he stopped everything, forced everyone else to stuff into the backseat of the car so she could ride in the front, and found room for her wheelchair was great. Now that was a couple I could easily believe would manage to last.

All in all, this was okay, but not as good as I recalled it being. The comedy aspect was better than the romance, by a good bit.


Deleted scenes, commentary I didn't listen to, music highlights, a Notting Hill travel guide, and Hugh Grant's movie tips. One of the deleted scenes (an alternate ending) made it look like the one character (Martin?) somehow managed to reopen his restaurant after being forced to close it due to lack of customers, and all I could think was "How much money did Anna end up giving Will's friends and family members to make their problems go away?" Because that's certainly what that scene seemed to indicate she must have done.

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