Making the Grades
In this Cinderella reversal, Hugh Grant plays William Thacker, the somewhat depressed owner of an unprofitable bookstore in London's Notting Hill. He specializes in travel books, but rather than ringing up purchases, he spends a lot of time telling customers that he doesn't sell novels. His discouragement even dulls his surprise when Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), claimed to be the world's most famous actress, walks into his store looking for books about Turkey.
The purchase is made and she leaves. But we know the "meet cute" is around the corner - quite literally - when William runs into Anna with a full cup of orange juice. He invites Anna back to his home (he lives around another corner) to clean herself off. Just having Anna in his flat is exciting enough to William, let alone her interest in his life. But Anna's fame will act as the essential romantic barrier that will keep our two lovers apart until the audience can't stand it any longer.
Changing this cliched story to the male perspective gives this romance the unusual ability to keep men interested - after all, it could be rather appealing to have a famous celebrity walk into your "nobody" life and take an interest in you. Watching William trying to figure out if Anna truly finds him interesting, or if he's just another face in her frantic life, creates many funny and adorable moments.
So what can possibly ruin a great little romance that's beautifully filmed in an interesting location? All the usual... Again the creators have neglected a huge audience of people who would love to watch this movie if it wasn't for the pounds of sexual remarks, profane language, and implied sexual scenes. For instance, William's flat-mate is particularly vulgar, and is often seen in nothing but briefs. Another scene depicts William and Anna in bed, with non-explicit nudity.
Notting Hill illustrates the ups and downs of fame, but can't be recommended for family viewing. Unfortunately this Cinderella story was given a gown that should have been sent to the cleaners.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Notting Hill.
The scene at a birthday party for William’s sister, gives Anna an opportunity to talk about the negative side of being a celebrity. Does that change your feelings about what it’s like to be famous?
The story includes a character who depends on a wheelchair. How often do we see physically challenged people in movies? Do they usually play a “regular” role like this one?
With scenes depicting sexual relations prior to marriage and William suggesting that his flat-mate masturbates, you may want to discuss with your children these issues or any others that may not meet your family’s standards.