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When boy meets girl in Notting Hill, the result is a contemporary British fairy tale. Grant plays William Thacker, a lonely, sweetly obliging bookshop owner whose humdrum existence is interrupted when actress Anna Scott (Roberts) walks into his store—and into his heart. He's rebounding from a failed marriage. She's Hollywood's leading paparazzi magnet, desperate for normalcy in a fickle fantasy world. But breezy banter aside, do these opposites have what it takes to forge a lasting relationship?
Blithe and charming, this romantic comedy is profound and articulate when examining human emotions and the deceptive veneer of celebrity. But as enchanting as it is, families will find sitting through Notting Hill like hiking in a new pair of boots, one of which fits comfortably while the other rubs up and down on the heel.
On one foot, William is a chivalrous, respectful gentleman. Anna exposes the painful side effects of stardom, providing a more realistic picture of fame. Moral misconduct (lying, posing for nude photos, sexual activity) has consequences. Life's trials are met with strength, not bitterness. Furthermore, colorful supporting characters illustrate the value of family and friends while reassuring viewers that romantic bliss is not reserved strictly for "beautiful" people.
On the other foot, profanity (s- and f-words, many misuses of God's name), alcohol, immodest discussions of anatomy, and implied sex between its stars make this Hill a grueling climb. Also, it's ironic to hear Grant (tabloid fodder in 1995 for soliciting a prostitute) lectured about how it feels to endure scandal. In the end, this summer hit misses the mark.
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Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Emma Chambers, Rhys Ifans