They don't really make many romantic comedies like Notting Hill anymore--blissfully romantic, sincerely sweet, and not grounded in any reality whatsoever. Pure fairy tale, and with a huge debt to Roman Holiday, Notting Hill ponders what would happen if a beautiful, world-famous person were to suddenly drop into your life unannounced and promptly fall in love with you. That's the crux of the situation for William Thacker (Hugh Grant), who owns a travel bookshop in London's fashionable Notting Hill district. Hopelessly ordinary (well, as ordinary as you can be when you're Hugh Grant), William is going about his life when renowned movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into his bookstore and into his heart. After another contrived meeting involving spilled orange juice, William and Anna share a spontaneous kiss (big suspension of disbelief required here), and soon both are smitten. The question is, of course, can William and Anna reconcile his decidedly commonplace bookseller existence and her lifestyle as a jet-setting, paparazzi-stalked celebrity? (Take a wild guess at the answer.) Smartly scripted by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and directed by Roger Michell (Persuasion), Notting Hill is hardly realistic, but as wish fulfilment and a romantic comedy, it's irresistible. True, Roberts doesn't really have to stretch very far to play a big-time actress who makes $15 million per movie, but she's more winning and relaxed than she's been in years, and Grant is sweetly understated as a man blindsided by love. Together, in moments of quiet, they're a charming couple, and you can feel her craving for real love and his awe and amazement at the wonderful person for whom he has fallen. The only blight on the film is its overbearing pop soundtrack, though Elvis Costello's heart-wrenching version of "She" gets poignant exposure. With Rhys Ifans as Grant's scene-stealing, slovenly housemate and Alec Baldwin in a sly, perfectly cast cameo. --Mark Englehart
The team behind the hugely successful 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' returns for this romantic comedy, which is now the biggest grossing British film of all time. Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is the world's most famous movie star, whilst divorcée William Thacker (Hugh Grant) owns an ailing travel bookstore in his local neighbourhood of Notting Hill. One day Anna buys a book from William's shop and later collides messily with him on a street corner. She accompanies him home to clean herself up, and from there springs an unlikely romance. However, the path of true love is littered with obstacles, not least the media, the adoring fans and the differences in their lifestyles.
DVD Universal Pictures UK, 44005976021, 1999 Collector's Edition UK PAL Region 24