After fondly revisiting Notting Hill (1999), a true movie gem of the 1990s, I decided to do a brief piece on my thoughts. Ah the ‘90’s… *wistful sigh* what a wonderful decade for Rom Coms.
Notting Hill is arguably one of the most successful Rom Coms of the late 1990s. It was the era that brought us many memorable hits of the genre including Pretty Woman (1990), There’s Something About Mary (1998), Sleepless In Seattle (1993), One Fine Day (1996), Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994), just to name a few. Today, Rom Coms seem to have lost the charm that made them the pinnacle of the ‘90s. They’re being churned out of the Hollywood machine one after the other. However, there’s certainly some that strike a chord now and then. 500 Days Of Summer (2009), for example, went against the grain and felt like something really unique. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) utilises the serious issue of mental health as a key navigator of the plot, a topic that isn’t a convention of the Rom Coms we’d seen before. Most recently, Me Before You (2016) raises a conversation about disability and euthanasia.
That’s what happens though, genres change and evolve, and you have to let go of what they used to be and embrace what they’re turning into (I imagine it’s kind of like when you’re a parent and your kid goes to University or something). But that’s not to say we can’t stay up all night every now and then having a ‘90s Rom Com binge, and then proceed to talk about why they’re so amazing. In this case, it’s Notting Hill.
Here’s a quick rundown for the savages amongst you that haven’t seen Notting Hill: William Thacker is an unsuspecting, corduroy-wearing bookseller. He meets Anna Scott (a very famous actress) when she steps into his Notting Hill shop to find a travel book about Turkey. Several amazing meet-cutes ensue, but will the romance get chance to fully blossom into everything it can be?
So what makes Notting Hill so enjoyable? First and foremost, our two central characters are seriously great. The chemistry is special. I’m not even a huge fan of Hugh Grant, but he’s just likeable as hell in this movie. Any guy that says “woops-a-daisys” and wears a prescription snorkel mask to the cinema, I’m there. As Julia Roberts had really started to come into her own throughout the ‘90s, she plays a character that invites you to consider possible parallels between her on-screen person and the real Julia Roberts. In the movie, she’s this big star that has learnt to be quite cold and structured on the outside, but just wants a normal life on the inside. Then she meets the cute, modest geek who owns the failing travel book shop – perfect! It’s worth noting as well, actually, that the whole cast ensemble really is a lovable one.
Rhys Ifans is nothing short of genius as the very un-genius Spike, William’s room mate. Spike most certainly means well, but he brings an abundance of quirky comedy to the movie on several occasions – notably confusing mayonnaise for yoghurt (and more importantly, not caring when he finds out it’s not), wearing a “Fancy A Fuck?” t-shirt on a date, and of course the “chicks love grey” moment.
The story itself is quite an interesting one because we’ve all wondered at one point or another, maybe we’ve daydreamed – (hell, maybe we’ve even fantasised, who’s to say) about what it would be like to be with a celebrity. What would that celebrity think of our normal lives? Would they get along with the family? Are they really like the person the media makes them out to be? These are all topics thoroughly and lovingly explored in Notting Hill, and that’s very entertaining to experience.
Notting Hill is often referred to as a “guilty pleasure”, probably because it is predictable, afterall. Even though the movie is just overflowing with wit, charm and warmth, there’s still the cheesy soundtrack and the predictable ending. And – here comes a spoiler which actually probably isn’t a spoiler at all because it does happen in the finale of a LOT of British Rom Coms – that moment at the end when the protagonist realises the mistake they’ve made and the whole family piles into a tiny car and rushes off somewhere, likely an airport, or in this case a press conference.
But hey, that doesn’t stop me from loving Notting Hill so tenderly. It’s one of those movies that will remain in people’s DVD collections for many years to come because it’s nostalgic. It’s nostalgic of the times we didn’t have social media at our fingertips to stalk a potential love interest before going on a date. It’s escapism in it’s greatest form. If the self-effacing, shy and blundering William Thacker can get the actress icon of the decade, then we can, right? Sure, it’s a perfect example of the love delusion but sometimes… that’s all you need.
What do you think of Notting Hill? What was, or still is, your favourite Rom Com of the 1990s?