In 1999's Notting Hill, Julia Roberts stars as Anna Scott, a superstar actress. (Whew! Just imagine the amount of research she had to do for this role!) An American in London, she chances into the comfortably shabby travel bookstore of William Thacker (Hugh Grant). Grant is at his stammering hesitant best as William tries to interest Anna in a travel book, disparages and then praises the one she eventually chooses, and later in a second meeting manages to spill orange juice on her.
He's an average bloke and she's incredibly rich and internationally famous. Obviously, it'll never work. Or, will it?
The Lady Pursues
Notting Hill is in many ways a formula romance, with two established stars doing what they do best. An unusual feature, though, is that every step forward for the relationship is taken by Anna. It's not that she's aggressive, but with a man as diffident as William, if you want to get anywhere at all, hinting around isn't going to cut it.
Complications ensue. She's got a pushy entourage and a packed schedule. He has a loutish roommate who forgets phone messages. When she invites him to join her in her world, it's at the Ritz and he winds up in the middle of a press availability, trying to play the part of a reporter from Horse and Hound. When he takes her into his world, it's to his sister's birthday party, where his star-struck sister follows Anna into the bathroom.
Other complications include the publication of nudie pictures from Anna's impoverished past, and the roommate letting slip that Anna is at William's, giving William a taste of pack journalism at its worst.
And the biggest complication of all, the American boyfriend (Alec Baldwin in a tiny almost cameo uncredited appearance) shows up. An arrogant Hollywood big name himself, how can William compete with that?
Boy Loses Girl
Anna leaves. William pines. Friends try to fix him up with nice girls.
And then Anna is back in England, filming a new movie. William goes to the location to see her, but overhearing her describe him as someone she once knew, nothing important (because she's talking to an incorrigible gossip, but he doesn't know that), he leaves.
And poor Anna has to pursue again! And he turns her down! (As an aside, how well Julia Roberts does 'trying not to cry'! Many actresses do the Big Eyes Swimming With Tears thing, but Roberts adds the reddening nose, which is probably effective precisely because it's not particularly attractive which adds to the pathos.)
Boy Gets Girl Back?
William discusses with his friends what a completely right decision it was to reject Anna, receiving their complete concurrence - until he realizes what a completely wrong decision it was. And now the race is on to get to Anna before she leaves London, and William, for good.
Notting Hill succeeds by giving the audience precisely what they want and expect from a Roberts-Grant film - Julia Roberts being incandescent and Hugh Grant being endearingly bumbling and floppy-haired. And somehow coming together despite the odds.
Notting Hill Credits
Notting Hill was directed by Roger Michell and written by Richard Curtis.