Notting Hill

(Image: Polygram Filmed Entertainment; from

DVD (1999) Written by Richard Curtis/Directed by Roger Michell         STARRING: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant

Poor William Thacker! The handsome but lonely bloke lives in Notting Hill, London with a perpetually semi-nude roommate and no hope of ever giving himself to love again. He was once married, he tells us in the opening narration, but this woman left him for someone who “looks exactly like Harrison Ford.” William (played by Hugh Grant)  is content to work by day in his travel bookshop and spend his evenings at home. Life is uncomplicated for William — uncomplicated, that is, until American actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into his shop. What follows is one of the best romantic comedies of the past 20 years.

I watched 10 Hugh Grant films back-to-back last June.  I began with Notting Hill, and in hindsight that was an error as I had set the bar too high and the likes of Nine Months and Bridget Jones (both one and two) could not compete.  I have not been a Julia Roberts fan since after Pretty Woman, but Notting Hill reminds me of Julia’s strengths as an actress. She and Hugh present the tale of a rather charming relationship yet there are moments of extreme emotional intensity which play out in a very real way. The final act of Notting Hill includes a scene reminiscent of the end of Roman Holiday (Gregory Peck could even rival Hugh for floppiest hair if Gregory hadn’t greased it back like that).

A few questions arose for me while watching Notting Hill: How does William make a living in a bookstore that nobody frequents? Why doesn’t his naked roomy catch cold? Why did William’s wife leave him for someone who reportedly “looks exactly like Harrison Ford” when William looks exactly like Hugh Grant? Equally as cute, I should say.

Sweet extras William brings home actress Anna to supper in one of the best meet-the-family scenes in all of film.

Good for who? This is rated PG-13, so it’s not for kids at all. There are several sexual references and some colourful language. It’s Hugh Grant and it’s a British film so what can I say, people? The f-bomb drops twice. I would not watch this with my 13-year-old daughter or the Baptist minister’s wife. For a content review, visit Notting Hill.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Marc Chagall

William Thacker has a print of a Marc Chagall painting hanging on his kitchen wall. Anna Scott admires it. “It feels how love should be — floating through a dark blue sky,” she says.

“With a violin playing goat,” adds William.

“Well, yes,” says Anna. “Happiness is not happiness without a violin playing goat.”

The colourful painting is La Mariée (The Bride), a now-famous work by Jewish-Russian artist Marc Chagall. The image depicts a young bride, her husband, and yes a violin-playing goat (although let’s not overlook the lovestruck fish, leaping over houses as he celebrates either the marriage or the fact that he has been granted human arms.)  Much of Chagall’s paintings, lithographs, and stained glass work contain images of, or were inspired by, his love for deceased wife Bella Rosenfeld Chagall who died in 1944 of an infection. This fact makes Chagall’s work both beautiful and haunting, as well as deeply romantic.

A reproduction of La Mariée was made for the film (the original painting by Chagall is in a private art collection in Japan). To avoid the reproduction one day being mistaken for the original, the fake Chagall was destroyed after completion of Notting Hill. But don’t despair! You can have your own fake Chagall with just a few quick clicks at

My favourite work by Marc Chagall is Les Amants au ciel rouge (Lovers in the red sky), 1950.

Paula Jane

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