Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Notting Hill

As vacations would often do around the world plus having budgetary constraints and struggling for company, I reached deep into my DVD collection (both the legal and illegal) for entertainment. Hidden deep among my stash, among the originals in fact, is Notting Hill. That movie is a rarity considering that among the handful of originals that I have it’s the only romance flick. . . so far.

The central theme of the film is perhaps the Holy Grail in the area of love; two different people, polar opposites, falling head over heals over one another. Hugh Grant plays the bottom half of that pole as William Thacker, a travel book shopkeeper while playing the prestigious top end of the pole is Julia Roberts as a world famous actress in Anna Scott.

As Anna Scott, Julia is basically playing herself. In 1999 when the Notting Hill was shown Ms. Roberts was one if not the most bankable female actress which adds immensely to the credibility of the character of Anna: confident yet vulnerable; wary of publicity and people who might in it for the advantage.

As a commoner Hugh Grant did as well as he could but unfortunately he was just physically impressive. Plain shirts and jacket will never look that well with me.

But just to be fair Hugh delivered his lines well. He was convincing as an awkward and uncertain shopkeeper facing what is essentially every man’s dream date. I guess what helped Hugh go down a few notches in the social strata are his capable supporting cast.

There was the frustrated cook and best friend Max played by Tim McInnerny. Gina McKee plays opposite Tim as his wife Bella. Wheel chair bound but not out Bella has an interesting dynamic as William Thacker’s former girlfriend. Then there’s Honey played by Emma Chambers. Though physically she’d be the last woman I’d pick to play Hugh’s sister she did quite well gelling with her film brother and friends. Another of the bunch is Hugh Bonneville’s character Bernie. This one is largely unimpressive as is often stated all throughout the film with his frustrations in work but surprisingly it’s hard to imagine Notting Hill without him.

Topping the support cast is Rhys Ifans. He was great as the sometimes perverted but always with a good soul roommate Spike. In real life it seems unseemly having a high profile actress and a man with a breeding of a dog but it worked. I think it’s ironic that in assembling and creating an unimpressive group of characters the filmmakers have created also endearing ones, perhaps even more than William or Anna.

Story wise the film was paced beautifully. The banter was terrific, simple but intelligent especially from Hugh.

Notting Hill also possesses an excellent soundtrack lead by the hit “When You Say Nothing At All”. I liked the scene when the song was first played, the birthday party. Anna, a first time guest, was just observing barely even having a romantic context but you’d know something was going to be there.

Romance writers should learn from this including a recent vampire movie which I do hate; that saying “I can’t resist you” or “I’ll die for you” will not necessarily close the deal for a convincing romance.

And while we are on lines Notting Hill was not beyond throwing out that catchy romantic line that for some will be melodramatic, over the top, or even unrealistic. It summed up I believe the idea of opposites can love each other or at least try to: “I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” If anything that line had perfect placement and timing somewhere near the end.

As my dearly departed Uncle Mon would say movie romance is so perfect its lasts for just two hours. But who cares. With a cast like Notting Hill, a well constructed story, a lovely soundtrack, and lines delivered in perfect timing and convincing portrayals, I’m sold.

Here’s to hoping for that actress one day. hahahaha