A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Romantic comedies are essentially fairy tales for grownups, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) goes for a full-blown fantasy with his 1999 blockbuster “Notting Hill.”
After all, it doesn’t get more happily-ever-after than his sweet yet sophisticated story of a world-famous American movie star (Julia Roberts) who falls in love with an ordinary bloke (Hugh Grant) while working in London. Recently released on Blu-ray, the BAFTA-winning film remains fresh and fun even as the 15th anniversary of its theatrical debut nears.
Curtis — who made his directorial debut with 2003’s beloved holiday film “Love Actually,” also released in a new Blu-ray edition, and recently announced his new drama “About Time” will be his last movie — set “Notting Hill” in the eclectic London neighborhood of the same name, where he lived. Recently divorced denizen William Thacker (Grant) runs a failing travel bookshop in the district and shares his house with an eccentric Welsh artist named Spike (the unforgettable Rhys Ifans).
The mild-mannered Englishman’s life is suddenly changed when Hollywood A-lister Anna Scott (Roberts) wanders into his store. Since the sunglass-wearing actress is obviously trying to keep a low-profile, the endearingly awkward Brit beguiles her by pretending not to recognize her and treating her like any other customer.
Their instant chemistry is again apparent when they literally run into each other outside his shop, and the two strike up a romance with the encouragement of William’s starstruck sister (Emma Chambers) and close circle of friends and despite Anna’s tabloid-attracting involvement with a fellow film star (Alec Baldwin).
While the new remastered high-definition release seems unnecessary for those who already own the movie on DVD, “Notting Hill” still sparkles with fairytale charm, especially compared to some of the silly schlock Hollywood tries to pass of as rom-coms these days.
Bonus features: The funny Hugh Grant’s Movie Tips, filmmakers commentary, deleted scenes, two on-location featurettes, photograph montage, music videos for Elvis Costello’s “She” and Shania Twain’s “You’ve Got a Way.”
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