“After all, I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” There is something so honest about the way this is spoken in the film by Julia Roberts that you see the lone sentence for what it is, bereft of all its cheesiness and romantic ideals. You see the quiet desperation and of course, the deep aching love on Roberts’ character Anna’s face. The 1999 romantic comedy by Roger Mitchell has quite a few moments like the one mentioned above, but absolutely nothing can surpass its simplicity and pure passion.
Starring Hugh Grant as bookseller Will and Julia Roberts as a popular American actress, Notting Hill was written by Richard Curtis, who had previously weaved his magic with the blockbuster Four Weddings and a Funeral. It’s no surprise then that Notting Hill too went on to achieve the top spot in popular culture, with people quoting lines from the movie till date. In fact, our own Hindi film industry has not shied away from referencing to it in passing. Remember the Milind Soman starrer Rules Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula when the actor is seen watching the film on a TV set with his date?
Notting Hill’s charm is indisputable, just like its actors, who seem to know their characters all too well. Grant plays the somewhat awkward but polite Will to the T, and Roberts as Anna radiates confidence and wisdom. But there are hardly any surprises here. We know how this is going to end even before the journey begins — on a romantic, happy note. Because that is embedded in the very nature of rom-coms — to provide foolish hope to lovers around the globe.
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However, there is a sequence which jumped at me particularly when I recently rewatched it. And it is in this scene that Anna displays her wisdom ever so calmly but purposefully. She and Will have kind of just begun dating, and she has been invited to his house. Not only does Anna throw everyone under a spell, but she also shocks Will’s family members with some ‘truth bombs.’ The scene runs thus — the members are gathered around the table and are playing a game of truth and truth (a revamped version of truth and dare) where the one with the most awe-inspiring confession would get the last piece of brownie. Anna, at this moment, says things that would have otherwise been considered unbecoming of her as an actress.
But let this be known, our heroine is far from perfect. Anna has problem areas as well, like the lie she told about her boyfriend to Will. And the time when she didn’t have courtesy enough to tell her new date that she cannot make it tea as she’s in the middle of a press junket. Impolite and inconsiderate. But later she grows and develops until finally admitting that she is just another person hungry for love. Well done, Anna. Well done, Mr Mitchell!
You can watch Notting Hill on Amazon Prime Video.
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