Notting Hill is NOT a Chick Flick
You know that movie that you think is the quintessential chick flick? Maybe it's Pretty Woman. Or When Harry Met Sally? Guess what? It's not. And Notting Hill? It's NOT a chick flick.
Notting Hill (1998)
Oh, sod a dog, I've made the wrong decision, haven't I?
Hugh Grant as William Thacker is the relatable protagonist. Julia Roberts as Anna Scott is a $15 million a picture actress with seemingly minimal friends and stardom induced problems - she is representative of no woman I have ever known (in fact, not even Roberts, herself). She falls in love with him. He can't believe it. He tells her she should star in a Henry James film. She does.
Is this a woman's fantasy?
What Notting Hill actually is, is a regular man's fantasy.
One that presumes a picture perfect, famous woman could wander into a travel book shop in West London alone and bored. That divorced wives simply disappear, and new roommates are both equally offensive and adorable. Most importantly, not that a woman with the power to command millions of dollars a film would be interested in an everyday British man, but that Hugh Grant constitutes that guy.
Sure, he's a little clumsy with his words (and surely can't climb a fence), and he wears a clunky (adorable) pair of glasses. But William Thacker, with a push-back of his exquisitely layered hair is, much like million-dollar-movie-star Hugh Grant, incredible looking. Charming. Highly datable.
It's the She's All That method of "Nerding" a character
Grant's made a career out of it. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, all of them (except About a Boy, where he has an immediate sense of loner, too-good-for-you cool, and Bridget Jones where he's an asshole with a heart-of-gold - so the same but, different?). But what's most interesting to me isn't the fact that he's unbelievable as the regular guy. It's that he's a guy in the first place.
Why are so many "chick flicks" actually about men?
Here's a few of the chick flicks I've encountered with male protagonists:
- Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- You've Got Mail
- About a Boy
- Jerry Maguire
- Sleepless in Seattle
- Silver Linings Playbook
- 500 Days of Summer
- Knocked Up
- Pretty Woman
- High Fidelity
- Say Anything
- Annie Hall
- When Harry Met Sally
- etc, etc, etc.
And those are the ones off the top of my head. Now, you may disagree about which of these are chick flicks and which are simply comedies or dramas with a romantic subplot. But let me ask you this - do you consider something like High Fidelity NOT a chick flick because a man is its central character? Because barring John Cusack as the protagonist, every. single. detail. of High Fidelity would qualify it as a romantic, tear-inducing, fluffy film perfect for the overly emotional woman in your life. What am I saying?
I'm saying maybe we should remember that men can appreciate romance, too.
I'm saying maybe we should rethink the term chick flick as a derogatory one.
I'm saying chick flick - maybe it's a misnomer.
Chew on that.
But what Notting Hill is most of all to me is a romance with a place.
A romance with a state of mind.
With its pastel storefronts, blue doors, flower stalls, and travel books shops, Notting Hill is a place to take shelter. To steal away from the real world. Where movie stars and real people can collide. Where people rush about the streets with no regard to traffic patterns to chase the one they love.
Notting Hill the film is a dreamy fantasy world for lovers - devoid of politics, money, and real life. It's why both sexes love this movie. It's why thousands of people want to visit the real Notting Hill, hoping for a glimpse at an idea created in a movie, inspired by a bit of calm and respite in the real place. A place where Hugh Grant is a normal guy. And Julia Roberts might just stumble into a shop and tell you what a normal girl she is.
It's a dream. A normal, everyday, very nearly possible, awfully good looking dream.
The long shot with Will walking through the seasons of Notting Hill. Artistically, it encompasses everything I love about this movie - the scenery, the neighborhood itself, and the weathering of one's loneliness. Technically, it's beautifully conceived and articulated. Who doesn't want to live in Notting Hill after seeing this?
The Chagall. That's not the original, is it? It is.
*You can watch Notting Hill on Netflix Instant.
If You Like it, Watch:
And now for something completely different. This one's for those of you who'd just like to see Hugh Grant in something that's not a romantic comedy. Here you go. Don't say I never gave you nothin' - 'cause I gave you this sick Ken Russell movie with a giant dragon-worm.
There are few with stamina to watch Stanley Kubrick's 184 minute love letter to 18th century England, but that's precisely what it is - a love letter to a time and a place. Not a lot happens, not a lot of people speak, but it's one of the most stunningly beautiful pieces of film ever shot. Like Notting Hill, it knows how to romanticize a setting.
Want in on the February Challenge?
Start with the first post – All That Jazz is a Chick Flick
Check out previous picks, like Friday's double feature review of Jessica Jones and Hannibal.
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