By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chris Packham
By John Anderson
By Nick Schager
By Anna Dimond
By Chris Klimek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
When it comes to issues of tabloid snoops and superstar nudity, the movie suddenly takes an all-too-serious tone, one befitting its female star's attempt to poke fun without, you know, making fun or having fun. At one point the tabloids get ahold of nude pictures Anna sat for early in her career. Even worse, Anna complains to William, someone filmed the photo shoot so that it now looks as though she made a porn film. Pardon? Exactly what kind of a photo shoot was this? Inquiring minds want to know -- well, every inquiring mind except William, who seems utterly oblivious to the whole star thing, the good, the bad, and the ugly side of fame (and the irony blows straight out the window). Never mind that, during the first part of the film, the jokes stem from his close-knit set of friends "discovering" that he's dating a celebrity. Hey, William simply likes Anna for who she is. OK. Fine. But the question forever remains: Why?
The big romance here isn't between William and Anna; they're almost unnecessary, pretty people in a pretty movie about pretty much nothing. Rather, the love affair's between Hollywood and itself: Notting Hill offers another example of moviemakers consoling themselves about how tough it is to be famous while congratulating themselves on how down-to-earth they really are. The audience ends up acting just like William's friends, wanting the two star-crossed lovers to get together but only because that's the way the fairy tale goes.
You want irony, try this on: The biggest scene-stealing laughs don't even belong to Grant or Roberts; they have nothing at all to do with the romantic part of this romantic comedy. Rather, they're the handiwork of William's flatmate Spike (played by Rhys Ifans), who's a hygienically crippled, so-called "masturbating Welshman" who doesn't even belong in this film -- and happens to spend an inordinate amount of screen time in his dirty, teeny-weeny skivvies. Apparently he didn't have a no-nudity clause. That, also, is unfortunate.
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