I remember seeing 'Notting Hill' back in 1999 and thoroughly enjoying this romantic comedy. One might say this film paved the way for similar formulaic romantic comedies for years to come. And it sure didn't hurt Hugh Grant's career, and quite possibly shot Rhys Ifans to stardom. Not only that, but this little rom-com made close to $400 million dollars and opened up around the same time as 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace'. Although 'Notting Hill' didn't make as much money as Star Wars, it sure gave it a run for its money, and it was far better in every way shape or form. However, the one major flaw with 'Notting Hill' is none other than Julia Roberts. Back in 1999, she was a very sought after actress and was at the top of her game, so it only seemed right for her to play the part, but this film could have been loads better if they had picked someone else.
I'm sure at one point or another, we have all fantasized about this storyline. We have all planned out in our heads what it would be like if a famous star actually took a genuine interest in our common lives and fell in love with us. We thought about what it would be like introducing them to our weird friends, our family, going on dates to the movies and restaurants, and even sex. Well luckily, this movie exists to give us a glimpse of what that might look like, and needless to say it's a fun and endearing movie to watch - even fourteen years later.
William Thacker (Grant) owns a bookstore in Notting Hill that only sells travel books. If you're looking for the latest John Grisham thriller, you will be thrown out. He's a divorced man who now lives with a roommate named Spike (Ifans), who wears snorkeling gear to lounge around the house, and enjoys spoonfuls of mayo as snacks. Needless to say, he's an odd duck. However, while Thacker is at this shop one day, in walks world famous actress Anna Scott (Roberts), who seems to quickly like Thacker's dry sense of humor. Later on in the day, the two literally run into each other on the street, which leads to Anna kissing William at his house, but then she quickly leaves.
This sends Thacker into a whirlwind of emotions. Anna contacts William again and asks if he can come see her at her hotel, while she is promoting her latest big blockbuster film. From here, they go on dates, he introduces her to his friends, and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other. They even become intimate. But reality hits William like a tons of bricks as Anna has not told him everything about herself, and has betrayed poor Thacker from the get go. Even though his friends and family try to introduce him to other women, he still can't get Anna out of his head. But maybe a second chance meeting might change things between the two.
Richard Curtis' script shows the ups and downs of dating a super famous celebrity, and never shies away from the brutality of it all. As in one scene we see a continuous shot of William walking down the street as as the seasons change, and realize a year has passed and he is still in a state of depression and hasn't gotten over Anna. Sure the formula is nothing new here as far as the plot points go, but the characters are a lot of fun, and you genuinely want Thacker to be happy.
And as awful as Julia Roberts is in the film, her character is a decent one, as we come to see that she really is just an abused person who wants to be loved, and who doesn't care about the fame. This is one of the best romantic comedies out there, and it's great to see it again.
'Notting Hill' comes with an average 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It seems that Universal didn't want to spend a lot of time with this video transfer and dido just do enough to up convert it to high definition. Detail is somewhat sharp, but there is an overall softness throughout. There is a very thin layer of grain too, and there isn't a lot of depth to the picture.
The colors don't really pop off screen, like they did in the theater and seems to not be as lively or as saturated as it could be. Black levels are average and seem to be on the light side a bit, while the flesh tones don't seem natural either. I expected a better clean up job and a better transfer here, but this feels rushed. This could have been better.
This release comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and sounds good for a romantic comedy that is dialogue driven. It's definitely a better presentation than the above video, that's for sure. Just don't expect your speakers to be rattling too much or a whole lot of sound from the surrounds. The dialogue is always crisp, clear, and easy to understand. It's always well balanced and free of pops, cracks, and hissing.
The ambient noises and sound effects sound decent enough and do manage to make it to the surrounds, but not too often. But when it does, there is some good directionality, and everything sounds fluid. The score and soundtrack do a good job here as well, but nothing is overly loud, and the score never really draws you in, other than the hit song 'She'. For a romantic comedy, this audio presentation does its job.
'Notting Hill' is a great romantic comedy, and very few rom-coms have come close to being as good as this one. It's very funny, charming, and has some great characters. If you can get past the fact that Julia Roberts is in the film, then by all means check this out. You'll find yourself enjoying it. There could have been a better video presentation here though, but the decent extras almost make up for that. Since this is such a good film, and still holds up today, I'm going to lightly recommend it.