Notting Hill
A Review by Chris McCaleb

I should mention right at the beginning that I recently discovered that I was a Hugh Grant fan. Perhaps it's important that you know this at the outset before committing to reading this review.

Still here? OK. I was a bit taken aback by this discovery about myself, just as I was taken aback by how much I really enjoyed Notting Hill. It's not that I have anything against Hugh Grant, it's just that I didn't expect myself to like this movie, and all of Grant's work. So far, he does one thing with his acting - the fidgeting, shy, young Englishman - but I consistently find myself laughing at it.

It's just not valid to blame an actor for essentially playing the same character over and over. The fact is, if we're going to start faulting actors for being somewhat the same from role to role, we're all going to have to stay late tonight making our list of bad actors. Carey Grant is very much Carey Grant from role to role, and I still like watching him. Gene Hackman plays basically Variations on Gene Hackman in each movie, and I still like him. Harrison Ford, apart from Mosquito Coast and Regarding Henry, does his same thing everytime, and no one is complaining very much, apart from a few crackpots. VERY FEW actors feel the need to completely chameleon from part to part. Even Dustin Hoffman occasionally just does Dustin Hoffman in a role. And I think that's OK! Because there is another, more important criteria for acting - believability.

I would blame an actor for being in the same sort of MOVIE over and over long before I'd blame them for playing the same character over and over.

Another thing maybe you should know - I am not really a Julia Roberts fan. This is not to say I actively campaign against her (As I do Rene Russo), it's that I don't quite understand her hype, and don't go to see movies based on her participation in them. I'm neutral about her.

So my recommendation of this movie comes from being a fan of one actor, and not the other. And my rating is Go see this film at a matinee if your first choice is sold out. (You can get a list of my ratings here). This may seem somewhat low after I've already said that I really enjoyed it, but that was the circumstance under which I saw Notting Hill: We went to Webster Place to see Austin Powers, found it sold out*, and decided to go to Notting Hill instead.

Maybe my enjoyment of it is predicated on already having been psyched up for laughing at Austin Powers. Maybe the fact that the theatre was full for Notting Hill, and that everyone was laughing uproariously was ALL a symptom of Austin Powers fallout. Whatever, it worked for me.

Notting Hill was written by Richard Curtis, the same man who wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral. And it so follows the pattern of Four Weddings that it almost seems like a second draft of that movie. Shy, charming Englishman falls for American girl, is consoled and helped along by a group of supportive, witty, down-to-earth friends, one of whom has a physical impairment. However, even though I noted this during the movie, it did not change my enjoyment.

I always like it when characters are introduced in a movie who you think are there mainly to be cartoonish, and then they end up having some interesting depth. I like it when I'm all set to think one character is meant to ultimately be a bitch - or a bastard - and then am surprised. Or when a character has a degree of complexity - when they are not consistently, uniformly villainous or pure. That I found it in this seemingly light romantic comedy was a pleasant surprise.

Go check it out and quit whining about Hugh and Julia.

* Something that seems to happen with increased regularity at Websters. I blame their new parking system which has turned a convenient theatre plex into a nightmare of parking and traffic. And although the new parking deck and ill-placed exits may not be expressly at fault for the selling out of movies, I feel better for having mentioned them here anyway.