Should I Watch..? 'Notting Hill'

Updated on December 18, 2019
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Poster for "Notting Hill"
Poster for "Notting Hill" | Source

What's the big deal?

Notting Hill is a romantic comedy film released in 1999 written by Richard Curtis, the legendary scribe behind hits like Four Weddings And A Funeral and the festive blockbuster Love Actually. Once again reuniting Curtis with actor Hugh Grant, the film focuses on a relationship between a famous actress and an ordinary member of the public and the various issues arising from such a situation. The film is named after the area of London in which the movie is predominantly set. The film also reunites Curtis with many of the crew from Four Weddings And A Funeral and this does make Notting Hill feel like a spiritual successor to the earlier smash hit. It became the highest grossing British film of the year and received critical praise upon release.


4 stars for Notting Hill

What's it about?

Will Thacker owns a small travel book store in Notting Hill, London whilst living around the corner in a flat with his eccentric Welsh friend Spike. Flabbergasted that superstar actress Anna Scott appears in his store to buy a book, Will goes for a brief walk and bumps into her again whilst spilling orange juice down her in the process. Heading back to Will's place to change, they exchange a kiss before Anna leaves. So begins a fledging relationship between the two.

Of course, true love rarely runs smoothly and the pair have to contend with a variety of issues. Press intrusion into both of their lives threaten to keep them apart while her hectic working schedule forces her to leave London for a while, leaving Will heart-broken. Can the two of them find a way to make things work or are the obstacles too great for them ever to have a real relationship?


Main Cast

Hugh Grant
Will Thacker
Julia Roberts
Anna Scott
Rhys Ifans
Emma Chambers
Honey Thacker
Hugh Bonneville
Tim McInnerny
Gina McKee

Technical Info

Roger Mitchell
Richard Curtis
Running Time
124 minutes
Release Date (UK)
21st May, 1999
Comedy, Romance
Ifans steals the show as Will's insane flatmate Spike
Ifans steals the show as Will's insane flatmate Spike | Source

What's to like?

Despite assertions that I only enjoy a film with explosions or someone wearing a cape, there is a soft spot for good romantic comedies and Notting Hill is a fine example. We all know that Curtis is a great writer thanks to the aforementioned films as well as TV shows like Blackadder and The Vicar Of Dibley. He and Grant have developed a weird symbiosis where England is full of delightfully quirky eccentrics and stuttering gentlemen straight out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel. That said, Notting Hill uses its supporting cast brilliantly to develop the world around Grant's character - in fact, most of the comedy comes from Ifans, Chambers and Bonneville as well as Curtis' sharp eye for comedic dialogue. It also frees Grant and Roberts up to do what they do best, namely getting tongue-tied and grinning a lot.

The film has a somewhat romanticised view of London (like snowfall in winter) but rarely does the capital look as good as it does here. The other thing I enjoyed was how it still felt like a genuine relationship despite the madness surrounding it. The film's soundtrack is also wonderful - I loved the clever scene of Will wandering aimlessly around Portobello Road as the seasons change around him, scored to Bill Withers' timeless Ain't No Sunshine. It just about avoids becoming overly sentimental like Love Actually completely failed to do and for couples on a date night, this is about as good as it gets.

Fun Facts

  • Anna Scott is asked how much she made on her last movie and she replies "$15 million". That isn't strictly true - it's how much Julia Roberts was paid for appearing in this movie.
  • The house with the blue door in Notting Hill once belonged to writer Richard Curtis. After the film's release, the then-owner sold up and auctioned off the door while the new owner replaced it with a black one to prevent fans from recognising it.
  • Shooting on the streets in Notting Hill presented numerous problems due to the number of people who live there. The location manager wrote to thousands of people living there for permission, promising to donate to a charity of their choice if permission was granted. 200 charities received donations in this way.

What's not to like?

There are moments when the film seems a bit too close to Four Weddings And A Funeral but that's to be expected, given most of the crew worked on this as well. What you might not expect is the two leads almost sleepwalking in their roles - yes, a stuttering English gent and the world's most famous actress isn't exactly a stretch for either Grant and Roberts but they feel much less like real people than those played by the supporting cast. It's as though they didn't feel the need to put in any effort which is understandable given their roles. Some of their dialogue also feels a bit sugary as well.

Being a rom-com, it does mean that there is a certain degree of inevitability to Notting Hill but films like these are about the journey, not the destination. The script offers more than just a couple of star-crossed lovers by including ruminations on the nature of fame, its drawbacks and some of the more unintended consequences of dating a famous movie star. But its comedy is genteel and evenly paced, not the frenetic farce of something like There's Something About Mary. It's rarely laugh-out-loud but such goofball antics wouldn't suit a film this fantastical anyway. There is one other thing I'd mentioned which is that the version of Notting Hill that appears here is nothing like Notting Hill in real life. There isn't a single significant character of colour and no mention of the world famous carnival that takes place every year.

The film's not exactly stretching Roberts (left) or Grant (right) to the best of their abilites
The film's not exactly stretching Roberts (left) or Grant (right) to the best of their abilites | Source

Should I watch it?

It might lack the emotional clout of Four Weddings And A Funeral or the festive, syrupy, cheesiness of Love Actually but Notting Hill is actually a quality little picture in its own right, one that I might even prefer. In spite of the strange world it inhabits, you identify with the characters and run with it unlike dozens of other rom-coms. The supporting cast prop up the two leads brilliantly and the film's humour is enough to win you over. It might be an extremely sanitised rom-com but what it does, it does very well.

Great For: couples, date nights, London residents

Not So Great For: cynics, Hugh Grant's public persona, untickled funny bones

What else should I watch?

There are no shortage of romantic comedies on the market as they are cheap to make and often score big takings at the box office. Finding a good one, however, can be tricky but there are several to choose from. Obviously, the aforementioned films written by Curtis are a great place to start, even if Love Actually is so sugary that it should have a warning for diabetics before the opening credits.

Of course, it's not just the Brits who make rom-coms. When Harry Met Sally is arguably the most famous Hollywood rom-com while Silver Linings Playbook was hugely successful more recently. My favourite, though, is Juno featuring Ellen Page as a sarcastic high school student who unexpectedly falls pregnant. It has a wonderfully indie feel to it and has one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a while.

© 2015 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Benjamin Cox profile imageAUTHOR

      Benjamin Cox 

      4 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      She's a fine actress but "Notting Hill" is not a particularly difficult role for her.

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      4 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I can see where Julia Roberts was in demand in her younger days, but I prefer her lesser known work, like Mary Reilly and Charlie Wilson's War. She's appeared in a lot of enjoyable films, but few great ones.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)