NOTTING HILL. Or: NOT IN HELL?
(Hugh) Granted, yes, it seems a nice escapist bit of fantasy filler fluff, right? I get that. It is, prima facie, a simple fairy-tale and love letter to a sector of London, via comedic set piece and meditations on friendship and film.
BUTTTTT: And it’s a very big bouncing bottom of a butttt. Look closer. And what you, in fact, find is a dark, gritty, social commentary. As in Ken Loach via Mike Leigh stuff. THAT kinda grim.
Yes, ABOUT TIME and LOVE ACTUALLY have more consequence and death and depth. But believe me, it is NOTTING HILL which wins the ‘darkest Richard Curtis rom-com’ award. It is his EMPIRE STRIKES BACK!
(In any event, it’s a myth that Richard was always cute and light and fluffy in his writing; he wrote BLACKADDER! It was HIS idea to do a certain something in MAMMA MIA 2!..Etc).
Here we go. Some evidence, at a glance.
- ‘Can the man in the street win the most beautiful girl in the world?’ thing. Fine. Except really? What if you ARE that man?!
- If it’s you, in reality, you have resigned yourself, via this movie, to the idea that you can only win said fair hand of beauty if it’s a film.
- Equally, in the movie itself, even there, blimey are you put upon. Does not do wonders for a male ego, lads, does it? Just sayin’, like. This is a feminist revenge thriller!
- Notice that Will Thacker (Hugh Grant) is running a book store. And the business is failing. As in, he will be closed, within the year. The fact that it is a travel book shop is beside the point here.
- In addition, one of his best mates is a chef (blink and miss cameo from Richard McCabe: best Hamlet on stage, ever, since Olivier, imho). Said chef opens a restaurant. Which, in turn, goes..bust. Go figure(s).
- Yep. For all the high glam Savoy/Ritz/London montage stuff on show? NOTTING HILL is a movie about an impending economic crash and the job loss devastation in its wake.
- In fact, the entire cycle of boom and bust can be blamed, single handed, on BERNARD (Hugh Bonneville). Worst. Stock. Broker. Ever. But don’t say that to Bernard’s face. Or he will super-injunct you. Again. 😉
- Seriously, it’s ‘there’, on the page/screen. Will has PTSD from a marriage break up. He’s also, clearly, well connected, in professional circles, right? So presumably, had a solid to good university / work career, pre bookshop. Gotta be a nervous breakdown in his back-story? Which explains, also, his idealised notions of love and associated vulnerability, but also his brutal discounting of suitors other than Anna (Julia Roberts).
- Spike (Rhys Ifans) is also, very probably, suffering in his own way, thereby explaining his chronic laziness and use of humour as a cover for pain. As in lazier than a sloth, on a sloth’s day off, but talented and creative and troubled?
- Rufus the thief (Dylan Moran: hilarious, especially when Julia Roberts says ‘ah, no’ to his offer of a phone number swap) is reduced to robbing a book store. That is definitely a comedic form of a cry for help. Ditto the poor sod looking for John Grisham and Winnie the Pooh books in a travel themed shop. He needs help. Don’t we all, sometimes?
#METOO, 20 YEARS EARLY?
- Julia Roberts’ character, Anna, has clearly been abused before the film’s events. The photographs to which she refers? The ones wot get leaked to the press. Which, as she says in the script, was a shoot she allowed out of a need for money. Survivor! Veteran of exploitation.
- That, in turn, explains her resilience (it is Will who initially takes a stand against the leering twits in the restaurant; not Anna). Equally accounts for the capricious, fickle, whim turning mood swings (her irrational storming away from house with blue door).
- IE: The woman has scars from male abuse, in the industry. That has left her vulnerable but strong, at once. Today, Anna would be an activist for #METOO / #TIMESUP?
- Hence, perhaps, her paradoxical nature. Allowing Alec Baldwin’s hilarious but nasty character to basically, verbally abuse her. But at same time, taking ruthless and dominant action against any notion of Will’s wavering commitment.
- Notice too that lovely Honey (Emma Chambers; much missed, btw; so sad) also, hints at an abusive relationship with an ex. Indeed, Michael Higgs (one of the most underrated actors we have; the best baddie Eastenders ever produced) has a brief scene where he is depicted, shouting at Honey. But the storyline and extended scenes were largely excised. Perhaps wisely so? Nobody wants to see Honey be abused. And Higgs is better at a kinda Godfather baddie than mr wife beater wally.
CONCLUSION /SUMMARY/END MONTAGE TO ‘SHE’..
So: there you have it. NOTTING HILL! THE DARKEST CHAPTER IN THE CURTIS/FREUD CATALOGUE OF ROM-COMS.
You will never watch it in the same way again. Oh and notice, too: no sequel. Not even as a comedy skit for COMIC RELIEF. Yet..;)
Happy Friday! Have a great weekend, one and all! x
ps: looking for the next Notting Hill style London paradise? try..
Or: Augmented World
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