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'Notting Hill' appeals to women, men alike

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"Notting Hill"

Directed by: Roger Michell

Starring: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts

Rated: PG-13

In a movie summer that began with the hype surrounding George Lucas' latest "Star Wars" episode, a sweet, slightly acerbic romantic comedy may give the Jedis a run for their money when it comes to legs at the box office.

While many a teenage boy (and many of their fathers) will dismiss "Notting Hill" as a chick flick, the writer/producer team that gave us "Four Weddings and a Funeral" has struck a nerve again with a film that promises to be this year's ultimate date movie. All of these teenage boys (and many of their fathers) will be going to the movies with the women in their lives to see "Notting Hill" and I think they'll come away pleasantly surprised.

Writer Richard Curtis has a knack for putting the right words in Hugh Grant's mouth as well as the perfect quirks in his character, and for my money Julia Roberts has never been better than she is here. She plays a famous movie star and there are points made in the plot that I'm sure ring true to her. And in a rather tongue-in-cheek way, these plot elements make reference to some things Grant must relate to as well.

Grant's breakthrough role was in "Four Weddings," but he's done a lot of other fine work in films that were generally overlooked by the viewing public. Check out "Impromptu" (with Judy Davis, the most unsung actress working today), "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain" or Roman Polanski's audacious "Bitter Moon."

Roberts, of course, is the United States' favorite hooker with a heart of gold, winning that title in "Pretty Woman." Most of her work has been in big-budget, big-name films, but up until "Notting Hill," I think her best effort was in her first film, "Mystic Pizza," one of those movies included in a list of films it is my personal crusade to get people to see. It's available at video outlets everywhere and features another unsung acting genius, Lili Taylor. (Drop me a line if want the entire personal crusade list.)

Grant and Roberts together make for a luminous screen and while it might be hard to imagine him as William Thacker, a simple London bookseller with the oddest assortment of friends, it's no stretch to see her as Anna Scott, one of the most famous actresses in the world.

While filming in London, Anna wanders into William's little bookstore and is enamored by his affable, self-deprecating style. He probably reminds her of Hugh Grant. He, too, is smitten. After all, this woman looks just like Julia Roberts. The sparks fly and there are only two people in the universe who can't see these two getting together. Those two are the parties involved.

The next meeting sees William spilling orange juice all over Anna, a situation that leads to her coming to the flat he shares with an impossibly uncouth Welshman named Spike. The sparks continue to fly and by now, even Anna and William seem to be noticing.

After a hilarious scene where William poses as a journalist from Horse and Hound magazine, the pair finally arrange a date. We then meet William's supporting cast of odd friends and family and later that night, Anna's boorish actor boyfriend. In an uncredited cameo, the man playing the boyfriend generally known as one of Hollywood's true gentlemen gives a great performance as a self-enamored, pompous movie star.

Anna leaves[[In-content Ad]]

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