Saturday, December 22, 2007

Notting Hill

So yeah, this is a bit closer to my normal reaction to romantic comedies. This one I had been on the fence about pretty much since it first came out, as I normally like Hugh Grant, and normally don’t like Julia Roberts, and this had gotten generally good, but not stellar, reviews, so I was all afluster as to whether to get it or not. The deciding factor for me was the discovery that Irish comic Dylan Moran also appeared in it, so I felt I had to see it just for him.

Of course, Moran is in a grand one scene at the start of the film, and then is never mentioned again, but bless ‘im, he done good. The rest of the film is tragically taken up by Grant, playing a politely befuddled travel book store owner, and Roberts, playing “the most famous actress in the world”, as they meet, fall instantly in love, and then spend the next hour and a half actively looking for excuses not to be together, while the viewer is given the thankless job of waiting an eternity for them both to figure out they were meant for each other. It’s an exercise in tedium, as we’re expected to feel bad for the poor little rich girl, who, despite having made $15 million on her last film, is really just the saddest one of us all. This is a plot thought up by someone born into wealth, I have no doubt. Of course, we’re also expected to feel sympathetic to her even as she’s being a complete bitch to Grant left and right, and then is discovered to already have a boyfriend (played nicely by Alec Baldwin) when he flies out from America to surprise her. If the genders had been reversed here, it would have been a Lifetime original movie about how men are evil. Like this, it’s somehow expected to be a romance.

It’s not a completely terrible movie, of course, in large part due to the efforts of the supporting cast, whose job it is to keep the humor flowing so we’re not overburdened by the plot. In addition to the aforementioned Moran and Baldwin, we also get some great work by Rhys Ifans as Spike, Grant’s incredibly horrid flatmate, who can be relied upon to say the most inappropriate possible thing at any given moment. He’s a great deal of help, unlike the atrocious music in the film. While most movies tend to have music that fits the scenes, the songs chosen here are just ridiculous, basically acting as a Greek chorus explaining the plot to us while we’re watching. At one point, after getting dumped by her for the fiftieth time, he starts walking all sad-like, and a song starts playing that endlessly repeats the line “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone”, which of course means it starts immediately raining so we can feel that much sadder for him. Come on now.

Sorry to all the Julia Roberts fans out there, but films like this, where she acts like an incredible bitch and everyone reacts like she’s completely in the right to do so (see also: Erin Brokovich), are not good movies. Sniping at everyone is not being sassy, it is not being all female empowerment, it is being an asshole. No amount of supporting characters can cover up this nonsense.

Rating: * ½

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