Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Rhys Ifans, Alec Baldwin
Released: May 28, 1999
This is a movie I liked when I watched it when it first came out, but now that I'm a little older and wiser, I can see that this movie is really not that good. These two people getting together makes no sense at all and there are so many things that don't really make any sense.
I should warn there will be spoilers though it's probably a moot point since this movie is very predictable and even if you've never seen it, you probably know that that two leads get together. Uh, spoiler alert! I WISH there was a reason for me to put a spoiler warning; I wish there was a bit of a twist in this movie, but, alas, there is not.
This is the movie where Julia Roberts basically plays herself. It reminds me of when Whitney Houston played a mega pop star in The Bodyguard. Julia Roberts, the most famous actress in the whole entire universe at the time, plays Anna Scott, the most famous actress in the whole entire universe. Hugh Grant plays William Thacker, a charming and self-deprecating English lad with floppy hair who owns a travel bookstore in Notting Hill, a charming and affluent area of London. He used to be married to a woman who left him for a man "who looked exactly like Harrison Ford." He says his shop doesn't sell many travel books and that basically business hasn't been booming. If that's the case, how doe he afford his house (which seems pretty nice). Well, good thing he ends up with a movie star who makes $15 million a movie (spoiler alert!)! I can't help but wonder if that's the real reason he was so enamored with her. I bet it was a pretty big big reason.
She leaves, but they will have their real meet cute five minutes later, or an hour later (not really sure how much time passes once she leaves the store) when Will has gone out to buy orange juice and a pastry and he's headed back to his store. He's rounding a corner and who should be coming from the opposite side, also at a face pace. Why, it's Anna Scott, of course (with seemingly no bodyguards...don't really big time celebs have bodyguards with them? Unless they were watching from a distance. But then why would they let her...oh, never mind!) They collide into each other and Will (I honestly don't even remember if he's referred to as "Will" or "William" in this movie, but "Will" is shorter to type, so we're going with that!) spills his OJ all over her blouse. Thank God it wasn't coffee; I can only image how much she would sue him for that! She's sopping wet and he offers to let her clean up at his place which is just down the street and she can see it with the blue door from where she's standing. She says she needs to get her car back (was it in the shop or something?) and he says she can use his phone. This is how you can tell this movie takes place pre-Smart Phone! This is also the time where, if indeed she did have a bodyguard, they would intercept her and stop her from going to a strange man's house...which she does! This is SHOCKING that a woman, especially someone who is a public figure like Anna Scott, would just go into this man's house without a second thought. What if he was some crazy stalker and had planned this to lure her back to his house? But she's just like, Okay, I'll change at your house and use your phone. Seriously, would Julia Roberts ever go into some random person's house after they spilled OJ on her? No, she would not! I wouldn't do it and I'm not even famous!
I should mention that Will has a flatmate named Spike (Rhys Ifans) who is a complete slob and the house is always just a mess. He also has no filter and no common sense. A lot of his scenes are just there for comedic purposes and I'll talk more about him later. Will apologizes for the messy kitchen and I noticed a chalkboard on the wall with the message, "Spike, clean up" which I thought was a nice touch.
Anna changes her shirt (she had been shopping, so she had a top to change into) and when she comes downstairs, Will is gazing in awe at her. He seems to be enamored with her fame and beauty more than anything else. There is an extremely awkward and cringe-worthy scene where she's clearly ready to leave once she's gotten everything situated and he asks her if she wants something to drink. He just offer her twenty different beverages and she says "no" to all of them. Dude, get a clue, she doesn't want anything to drink! She also doesn't want anything "to nibble". He offers her apricots soaked in honey and rambles on about how they taste like honey and if you wanted honey, then you should just get honey. First of all, it's like, UGH, SHUT UP! Second of all, it's pronounced AP-ra-cot, not APE-ra-cot. (I know, I know, that's how British people pronounce it). Will asks her, "Do you always say no to everything?" to which Anna predictably replies, "No."
That night, Will and Spike watch a movie starring Anna Scott and Matthew Modine and it looks like the most pretentious, God-awful film. Its called Gramercy Park and it's in black and white. The scene we see Will and Spike watching has them at an art gallery and Matthew Modine's character keeps telling Anna Scott's character to smile and she's all, "I've got nothing to smile about." Also, nothing more obnoxious than somebody telling you to smile. Moments later, he asks her to marry him and she breaks out into her wide Julia Roberts grin. Oh, barf. Spike says, "Imagine, somewhere in the world there's a man who's allowed to kiss her." And he says that to the very guy who had just kissed her that very day! What are the odds of that?
A day or two passes and Spike tells Will he has a couple messages, but he didn't write them down. Because that's the kind of person he is. He does remember that "an American girl named Anna called a few days ago" and told him she wanted Will to call her at the Ritz under a different name that Spike can't remember since he didn't write the message down. It's really too bad for Will that Smart Phones don't exist in the world yet. How did Anne get his phone number? Did he ever give her his last name so she could look him up in the phone book? While Will is talking to the Ritz and trying to convince them to let them talk to world famous movie star Anna Scott, Spike suddenly remembers the name she used was "Flintstone" and Will is able to get through.
He goes to her hotel suite, but it turns out it's set up for a press junket where journalists are interviewing Anna and other actors for her new film called Helix. When he's asked which magazine he's from, Will sees a copy of Horse and Hound lying on a coffee table nearby and tells the woman he's with that publication. He also uses his real name. Wouldn't they have him on the roster? They must not even have one because they let him in without checking his identification or credentials. This movie definitely lets thing slide so they can tell the story they want to to tell.
Will is able to go in the private room where Anna is giving her interviews, but her publicist keeps popping in and out, so every time he's in the room, Will has to pretend to be a journalist and ask dumb questions about a movie he hasn't seen and knows nothing about. Keeping with the magazine's theme, he asks if she wanted more horses in it and she replies it would be too difficult since the movie is set in space. She says it in kind of a bitchy tone which I thought was a bit rude since she was the one who got Will in this mess. It's not his fault he hasn't seen this crappy movie (we see a very little clip of it and we hear snippets of what its about and it sounds terrible) and that he has to pretend to be interviewing her. When the publicist is out of the room, Anna does sound apologetic and tells him she thought this would be over by now. Still, she could have arranged a rendez-vous with him without putting him in this awkward position. She also apologizes for "the kissing thing." This prompts Will to ask her if she's busy that night and she says she is. When the publicist brings in the next journalist, Anna tells Will it was nice to meet him and throws in "surreal, but nice", making it full circle, though it absolutely makes no sense why a movie star would say that to a journalist. Will tells her she is Horse and Hounds favorite actress, other than Black Beauty.
Anna catches Will before he leaves and tells him she can cancel her plans so she's free that night. Will is happy, but then suddenly realizes it's his sister's birthday and they're supposed to be having dinner with friends. (Dude, I'm sure your sister wouldn't mind if you were missing her birthday dinner to go on a date with a famous movie actress). Anna gets the great idea to invite herself along which I don't fine believable at all. I'm beginning to think she's one of those celebrities who became famous to be famous and does not care about acting at all (she often even jokes she's not that great of an actress!) She invites herself because she knows everybody will be fawning over her. Will has time to call his friends who are hosting the birthday dinner to tell them he's brining a date, but he doesn't have time to give them a heads up that his date just so happens to be the world's most famous actress.
Dinner seems to go by fine and after they've all had a brownie for dessert, there's one left and it is offered as a prize to whoever has "the saddest act here." (Why the hell didn't they just make sure there was two for everyone in the first place!) This is clearly an exposition scene for the audience to learn more about the characters. We learn that Bernie works at a job he doesn't understand and everyone keeps getting promoted above him; Honey doesn't make much money and she attracts "cruel men"; Bella is in a wheelchair and can't have kids. We know that she was in an accident 18 months ago; I think they mention she fell down the stairs? Will is divorced with an unsuccessful profession. (Still, how does have such a nice home?) They are about to let Will take it (really? The woman who is in a wheelchair and can't have children doesn't have the saddest story of them all?), when rich-ass, beautiful, world-beloved and famous Anna Scott whines that she should get a chance to claim the last brownie. Bitch, please. She'd probably just throw it up anyway. I say this because she tells them she's been on a diet since she was 19 as well as she's had a bunch of "not-nice boyfriends", and every time she gets her heart broken, it's all over the newspaper. Oh, and it took two painful operation to look like she does. Um, you were the one who went into a line of work who has high standards for the way you look and of course the tabloids are going to paste your business all over their papers. I don't think the woman in the wheelchair who can't have children asked for those things. The other guests sort of humor her and cluck their tongues in sympathy, but then they're like, Nice try, you're rich and beautiful, so GTFO. (They didn't say it that way exactly, but you know that's what they were thinking).
Honey continues to be intrusive when Will and Anna are leaving and saying good-bye to everyone and Honey tells her to call her if she ever wants to go shopping because she knows "lots of nice cheap places." Yeah, because the woman who makes $15 million a movie is worried about finding cheap places to shop! Anna, bless her, is super nice and tells Honey she's her "style guru", but it's an obvious lie because those two could not have fashion senses more different. When Anna and Will are outside the house, they hear his friends screaming in excitement and Will tells her they do that every time he leaves. I thought that was one of the funnier scenes in the movie.
One of the scenes I remember the most is the next one where they're walking and come across a private garden with a locked gate. To impress Anna, Will tries to climb over, but fails and this is where we get him saying "Whoopsie daisies" not only once, but twice, and Anna makes fun of him for that. They both manage to make it over and kiss while they're in front of a beautiful garden and a sappy song starts playing, so you know they're in love.
I realize this movie takes place before Google was a mainstream thing and even before the Internet was huge, though they did have the Internet back in 1999, so why didn't Will do any research on Anna on the web? Was her relationship with Jeff hidden from the press, so nobody knew about it? Somehow, I doubt that. Also, surely Will's friends and especially his sister, who is Anna Scott-obsessed must have know that Anna had a boyfriend! Why didn't they take Will aside and mention this to him? We will get a scene later with his friends when one of them asks him, "You didn't know she had a boyfriend?" and he replies, "No, did you?" and his friends all look knowingly at each other. SO WHY DIDN'T THEY TELL HIM? For the convenience of the movie's plot, that's why.
Anyway, Will is obviously hurt that Anna was lying to him that whole time and they break up. His friends start to set him up with different women. We meet Tessa who has frizzy hair and while social, is also very blunt. When she first sees Bella (her first date with Will is a double date with Bella and Max), she exclaims, "Hello! You're in a wheelchair!" She knows Max from somewhere (work, maybe?) and tells Will that Max has told her a lot about him and that he (Will) "is a naughty boy." Now, was this before or after Hugh Grant got busted being caught with prostitute? (I can't take credit for this joke; I heard it on a podcast. And for the record, it was after). But what is she talking about? Nothing about Will screams "naughty". I don't know what kind of stories Max has been telling her!
The second woman they set him up with refuses to eat a meal because she's a "fruitarian" which means she "believes fruits and vegetables have feelings, so cooking is cruel" and she only eats those that have fallen on the ground since they're "dead" already. The dish she was offered had carrots that were murdered. So I thought this whole fruitarian thing was made up for the movie, but it seems to be a real thing. I understand why people are vegetarians and I respect that, but I don't quite get the point of being a fruitarian.
Anna shows up because she is upset that nude photos of her taken "years ago" are now in the tabloids. She had them taken before she made it big to make a few bucks. Apparently, someone was filming her as well, "so what was a stupid photo shoot now looks like a porn film." I don't quite understand why these photos and videos are being released now since it appears that Anna has been famous for at least a decade. It doesn't make any sense, but they just need to find a reason for Anna to be upset while she just so happens to be in London for two days and she goes to Will to ask if she can stay with him for awhile so she can hide from the press. Of course Will says she can stay with him because he is in love with her, but we all know that "love" is purely infatuation. We also find out that Anna has broken up with Jeff.
1) Will is helping Anna with her lines for her next movie where she saves the world from a nuclear threat. He calls the script "gripping", but it isn't Henry James.
2) They bond over a Chagall painting called La Mariee (pretend there's an accent mark over the first e) that features a violin-playing goat.
They end up sleeping together and everything is great until it isn't. The next morning while Anna is in the kitchen getting breakfast ready, the doorbell rings and Will answers it wearing his boxers and a t-shirt. He opens the door to find a crapton of paparazzi snapping pics of him and quickly shuts the door. When Anna sees Will's shocked face, she asks him what's going on. He says "nothing" and she says, "You're up to something" and proceeds to open the door only wearing his dress shirt. Why didn't he stop her? And why is she opening the door only wearing his shirt? You would think being a public figure, she would know better. Of course photos get snapped of her dressed like that and she is livid. She accuses Spike of calling the papers and telling them where she was to make "a buck or two." Spike did tell a couple of his friends (it's not like Will told him to keep quiet about it and what do you expect from somebody like Spike? Anna had met him before and knew what he was like) and that's how it got leaked. I can't blame her for being pissed because Will had every opportunity to tell her NOT to open the door, but he didn't until it was too late. She probably still would have been angry that the press was there, but at least they wouldn't get her photo. Will tells her it will be forgotten by the next day and nobody will care anymore because it will be yesterdays' news. But Anna doesn't agree with him and leaves in a huff and once again they are no more.
I do love the next scene where we see the passing of time as we see an establishing shot of Will walking through the market and they show the seasons changing. At the beginning, we see him pass a pregnant woman, then by the end she has a baby. We also see his sister with a new beau, but by the end, they are arguing. It's a nice way to show the passage of time:
During this time, Bernie has lost his job and at a dinner with friends, Honey announces she's engaged. Turns out it's to Spike. Wha-? How did Will not know his sister was dating his flatmate? How did we not know about this? This must have been a storyline they cut out of the movie...but then why leave in their engagement? Also, I hate that they get engaged because they're the kooky characters. But, whatever, it's not even important and won't be part of the movie anymore and I'm not really sure why it's even in the movie. I am vexed; it vexes me.
Will finds out that Anna is back in London, filming. (Does she even film in any other city??) Apparently she won a Best Actress Oscar...for Helix, that craptacular sci-fi movie. Um, excuse me, but nobody ever wins acting Oscars for sci-fi movies. Well, thank goodness for Julia Roberts, the movie she actually did win an Oscar for, Erin Brockovich, is better than that movie (and this movie too, let's be honest!) So, I guess in this universe, Anna Scott wins the Oscar instead of Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry. I mean, there is clearly some shady stuff going on!
Anyway, remember I told you to remember a couple of things because they would come back later? Well, turns out Anna is filming an adaptation of a Henry James novel and Will goes to visit her on the set. She sees him and invites him to stay and watch, then they can chat later. He does, but I guess she doesn't know that someone gave him headphones so he can hear the dialogue, and he ends up hearing Anna's co-star ask Anna about him (Will) and Anna just dismisses him (Will, again), saying he's "just some guy from the past" and she doesn't know "what he's doing here." Good Lord, what a bitch! Will must think so too because he just leaves and goes back to work.
It absolutely makes no sense that he ends up with Anna! I would have loved it if the movie had a twist and he ended up with Emily Mortimer's character. Also, you know those two are no longer together. They should make a sequel about their kid (who would be 22 now). I'm sure we would find out their parents divorced when they were a little kid!
Many of the scenes that featured the zany roommate, Spike, didn't come off realistic to me. Nobody can be that stupid, can they? Pretty much every scene with Spike infuriated me because he comes off....so unnecessarily stupid and socially inept and his scenes are clearly played for laughs and I just hated this character so, so much:
-There's a scene early on in the movie where he's getting ready for a date (how did get get someone to go out with him in the first place?) and he asks Will which shirt he should wear. The first one he models features a plastic T-rex head and is splattered in red and it reads "I love blood." What the actual f**k? Why would anyone think this would be appropriate to wear on a date or anywhere, for that matter? The second one has an arrow pointing at his genitals and it says "Get it here." Will, of course, is appalled by these shirts. The third shirt Spike wears has a heart and says "You're the most beautiful woman in the world." Will tells him, "That's perfect." WTF, Will? No, it's not. You say, "Don't you own any solid colored shirts?" Encourage him to wear a black or blue or red polo shirt. If I went on a date with a guy who wore a shirt that said that, I would be terrified and totally weirded out. That is CREEPY AF. There is nothing romantic or cutesy about that. When Spike turns around, Will sees it reads "Fancy a f**k?" (Klassy!) and still Will doesn't tell him NOT to wear it.
Then we get a scene of Spike eating something and he tells Will there's something wrong with the yogurt, who replies, "It's not yogurt; it's mayonnaise" and Spike continues to eat it! Ugh, why? It would have been more believable if the yogurt was just expired and he continued to eat it because he didn't mind the taste of it.
At one point, we see him wearing Will's wet suit (from a vacation he took once) because he doesn't have any clean clothes because he never does laundry. This is only in the movie because Will says the goggles are prescriptions and we see him wearing them at the movies when he's dating Anna because he can't find his glasses. I'm sorry, but if you're trying to impress a girl, especially one who is a MOVIE STAR, you're not going to wear your stupid scuba diving goggles because you look like a COMPLETE moron! Well, lucky for him, Anna seems to think it's charming.
During the time Anna is staying with Will, she takes a bubble bath in the bathroom. Spike, who had been reading the tabloids that features Anna's nude photos, walks into the bathroom, sees Anna in the tub with the bubbles surrounding her, then walks out and thanks God. And she acts like it's no big deal; like she was suspecting Will's flatmate to walk in on her while she was in the tub. You would think she would LOCK the door!
If you're looking for another Richard Curtis romance, I would recommend About Time which also has an interesting premise. I should mention that Richard Curtis did not direct Notting Hill, but he did write it. I've never see Four Weddings and a Funeral, so I can't say if that's better or not than this one. That's one I should put on my list of movies to review.