Charm has become synonymous with unctuousness in our culture, but in the best sense of it, charming is the only way to describe the teaming of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.

NOTTING HILL

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


At last, a first-rate romantic comedy. Only the most jaded among us will resist Notting Hill. A magical blend of old-fashioned fairy tale and modern humor, the movie is an invitation to suspend reality and enjoy the romance that envelops Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), the world's foremost movie star, and William Thacker (Hugh Grant), a shy British bookseller. Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant deliver a powerhouse punch of a movie. Neither of them has ever been better.

William (Mr. Grant) tends his travel bookshop across the street from the house he shares with Spike (Rhys Ifans), a slovenly Welshman who lives life only in the moment. Anna (Ms. Roberts) steps into the shop from the streets of Notting Hill, where her picture is plastered on buses, and her life on tour has turned her into a commodity. Honorable boy meets honorable girl, and the rest is a wonderful roll through Richard Curtis's inspired script. Roger Michell's skillful direction makes the most of what isn't said, of the pauses the actors use so well.

And then there's the supporting cast that forms William's dysfunctional circle. Younger sister Honey (Emma Chambers) is daft. Dear friends Bella (Gina McKee) and Max (Tim McInerny) are devoted to each other and to William. Friend Bernie (Hugh Bonneville, in an endearing performance) is a sweet guy who is a washout as a stockbroker. When William brings Anna home for dinner, the wacky and wonderful group erects a protective barrier between the couple and the ravenous press. Watch for Gina McKee's fine performance as the wheelchair-bound Bella.

So everything is right: casting, direction, script. But that's not the end of the story. The movie soars on the subtleties of the chemistry between Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. They build their characters with such genuineness that we're past the halfway point before we realize that we ourselves are ready to jump out of our seats to protect them. Mr. Grant is a master of the timing and understatement that seems to be a British gift to the world. Ms. Roberts is as smashingly persuasive as a glamour queen of the fame game as she is as a woman looking for real human connection.

In the last third of the film this actress does a remarkable thing. After building a thoroughly believable character, she delivers a breathtaking comment on the human condition. It takes consummate skill to inject such a moment of clarity and credibility into a romantic comedy. The fact that the scene is riveting is a full measure of Ms. Roberts's skill.

Charm has become synonymous with unctuousness in our culture, but in the best sense of it, charming is the only way to describe the teaming of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. There is raw honesty in each of their performances. Together they are captivating. "What am I doing with you?" she asks. "I'm afraid I don't know," he replies. In the context they have created, that's charm.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Universal
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 2h3m


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