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Notting Hill review

Notting Hill
15certificate 15
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans, Gina McKee, James Dreyfus, Richard McCabe, Dylan Moran, Hugh Bonneville, Emma Chambers
Rating 8 out of 10
Five years ago, the writer of TV's Blackadder penned his second film, an undertaking which would ultimately showcase a rising British actor, his stammering, floppy-haired charm, and his knack for plummy enunciation of words like 'excellent' and 'bugger'. It also made Hugh Grant a household name. By the same stage, every one of those households already knew who Julia Roberts was.

Two Comic Reliefs And A Blow To Hugh's Credibility later, and they're paired in what is inevitably being described as the Four Weddings sequel. It's not. But similarities are evident, not least of which is Grant's character.

Witty, but faintly awkward bachelor Charles has been transported into William, the witty but faintly awkward owner of a travel bookstore in the London district of the title.

His bored existence takes a brief, memorable lurch one day when fabulously famous but supposedly incognito film star Anna Scott (Roberts) happens into the shop.

Events of dubious likelihood conspire their way to William's nearby house where they exchange a fleeting, confusing kiss. But, despite the wayward memory of flatmate Spike (Rhys Ifans), William and Anna snatch a couple of stolen, romantic evenings later that week - the first of which involving the various reactions of William's friends at a birthday dinner for his sister Honey (Emma Chambers).

Whether the movie queen and the ordinary Brit can ever be wholly compatible is what spins out such a slender premise for the two hour running time. That it works is largely down to the charm of both leads.

Okay, so Hugh's pretty much just Hugh, but what's the point in having him in a film like this if you're not going to play to his strengths? And Julia, although on familiar territory as far as method acting her character goes, has rarely been better or more gorgeous.

They're well-served by another superb script from Curtis, bristling with a steady stream of laugh-out-loud jokes and the sort of dialogue you always wish you were clever enough to come up with in real life.

His supporting players - among them Ifans (to great comic value), Gina McKee, Blackadder's excellent Tim McInnerny - aren't perhaps as full as before, but that's just the point: Four Weddings was an ensemble comedy. This isn't. Which is why it's not really a reviewer's place to issue qualitative comparison. Production values are on a par, the writing's as good, but if you must have an overall better-or-worse rating, the only option is to judge for yourself. And at the very least, this film deserves to be seen.

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