More than a decade after its initial release, “Notting Hill” has wrinkled aplenty of foreheads. May those be of either genuine awe or utter disgust, I care not much. This film is sheer popcorn cinema, and the earlier you understand that, the better. For years it has been the benchmark of romantic comedies; the standard of what balderdash, syrupy story is still mysteriously enjoyable. My mentioning of this doesn’t reflect my opinions on rom-coms as a whole. In fact, if done right, romantic comedies make powerful sentiments as in the likes of “Lars and the Real Girl” and the recent likes “(500) Days of Summer” and “Safety Not Guaranteed.” The thing, you see, is that like most genres, romantic comedies are littered of profusely syrupy dialogue (“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her,” is an easy example, thank you very much) and tired, conventional scripts that are further botched with sub-par direction. This film, in a nutshell, has the illusive charm of a Hollywood rom-com and its boatload of curses.
If anything, after those years of hefty profit, the film becomes a parody for its two leads: Julia Roberts (“Eat, Pray, Love”) plays an American film star tainted with bad publicity and Hugh Grant (“Music & Lyrics”) plays a bookshop owner, a sweet English chap who’s trying his luck in life. May the film mock or praise the two, again, I care not much. The fact that Julia Roberts is being continually branded with all sorts of names, some of them good, some not, and that Hugh Grant has taken the industry with his goody two-shoes aura aren’t important. They work well together and they have enough chemistry. But is it enough? Any film that asks the unbelievably foolish question, can the most famous film star in the world fall for the man of the street, isn’t likely to allow so.
“Notting Hill,” in conclusion, is best encountered with an open mind. Hollywood will produce plenty of films like this–second-rate, fanciful, deceptively enjoyable–and this will continue on. Many of my issues about the film (Richard Curtis’ trite script and Roger Michell’s middling direction, are high up in my list) aren’t calling for any mention. This is the sort of film viewed only by the subjective eye, after all. Many stomachs will get upset, many eyebrows will furrow, and many will merely enjoy the film and it’s standard rom-com fanciness.
I prefer to choose the last; I recommend you do the same.
RATING: 2 stars (out 4)
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