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Roger Michell
Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans
Writing Credits:
Richard Curtis

The life of a simple bookshop owner changes when he meets the most famous film star in the world.

Box Office:
$42 million.
Opening Weekend:
$21,811,180 on 2747 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 124 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 10/15/2013

• Audio Commentary with Director Roger Michell, Producer Duncan Kenworthy, and Writer Richard Curtis
• Deleted Scenes
• “Seasonal Walk on Portobello Road” Featurette
• “Hugh Grant’s Movie Tips” Featurette
• “Spotlight on Location” Featurette
• Music Videos
• Photo Montage
• Trailers


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Notting Hill [Blu-Ray] (1999)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 27, 2020)

If you examine film release schedules, you may notice a fairly substantial gap both before and after May 19, 1999. On that date, a little flick called The Phantom Menace - or Star Wars: Episode I - hit screens, and it became the behemoth from which all competition ran.

One flick had the audacity to go into wide release on May 21, as The Love Letter was offered as a sacrifice to the counter-programming gods. The theory behind its appearance at this time reasoned that a) all those people who couldn’t get in to sold-out shows of Menace needed something to see, and b) since Menace mainly appealed to males, a serious chick-flick like Letter might attract a significant crowd who wanted something different.

This reasoning makes sense on the surface, but it fails to account for the cultural phenomenon that was Menace. Especially during its first week, that film’s appeal transcended virtually all demographical boundaries; it became a “must-see” experience for virtually all ages, genders, races, and whatnots. Letter couldn’t break through in the face of this onslaught.

As it happened, the idea behind this counter-programming really was valid, but it was the timing that was faulty. This proved true a week later, when Notting Hill hit screens.

By May 28, the masses had already experienced Menace, and many would be ready to check out something different. Sure, the Star Wars faithful and the kids would still be most interested in Menace, but they weren’t the target audience for Hill. By that point in time, those who would be interested in a romantic comedy would be more open to the possibility.

Actually, it’s also likely that Hill would have outperformed Letter even if the release schedules had been reversed. Circa 1999, the combination of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant clearly eclipsed an ensemble in which the biggest names were those of Kate Capshaw, Tom Selleck and Ellen Degeneres.

As such, it seems probable that Letter would have been a bit of a dud nonetheless. Heck, it’s possible that the movie got such a terrible release date just to let the studio have an easy excuse for its failure.

The same reasoning wouldn’t have worked as well for Hill, As of 1999, it’d been a few years since Julia Roberts experienced a true flop, so Universal clearly wanted to maintain her run of hits.

That she did, and even for a person like myself who doesn’t much care for chick-flicks, I have to admit that Notting Hill offers a reasonably effective and entertaining piece.

At the start of the film, we meet Will Thacker (Grant), the fairly quiet proprietor of a somewhat unsuccessful London travel bookstore located in the Notting Hill district. That’s also where Will lives and where virtually all of his family and friends reside.

Will leads a rather insulated life, but all that starts to change one day when a new customer enters the shop: Anna Scott (Roberts), an insanely famous movie star. The two briefly chat about a book that she purchases, and life seems to move on, or at least it would if life didn’t include two attractive movie stars who need to feed a plot.

Yes, it’s time for the true “meet cute” moment, the part of the flick in which our romantic leads come together in star-crossed fashion. Will goes out for beverages, and as he returns, he accidentally spills orange juice all over Anna.

Since his abode is so close, she stops in there to clean up, and a few sparks exchange. She seems to move on, but inevitably additional contact is made when she calls him a few days later. After that, the romance truly ensues, and the inevitable complications also appear on the road to the traditional happy ending.

Not a moment of Notting Hill offers anything surprising or fresh, but to be frank, that doesn’t really bother me. Movies can be predictable and retread older material but still succeed as long as they do so in a charming, entertaining manner, and that’s why Notting Hill works.

Actually, I wouldn’t call the film a rousing success, for it tends to drag after a while. The first half of the flick seems to be much more effective than the second, partially because it turns into something of a soap opera during the latter span. The film’s opening portions feel lighter and frothier, and they offer a more winning and compelling experience.

Nonetheless, the movie remains fairly interesting through most of its time, though I must acknowledge that I really dislike the ending. I’ll leave the film’s conclusion undiscussed, but suffice it to say that it finishes in a far-too-concrete manner, so we have absolutely no question how the characters’ lives will proceed.

While I’m happy that this at least avoids the “set-up for a sequel” finales that mar many movies, I still don’t like the fact that we can’t imagine for ourselves how things might go.

In any case, most of Notting Hill works well, largely due to the actors. Grant doesn’t seem to be the world’s most versatile performer, as he usually appears to play a variation on the same stammering, mussy character.

Still, Hugh Grant does “Hugh Grant Persona” well, and his natural charm comes across nicely throughout the film. He makes Will into a reasonably endearing and likeable person who helps propel the movie through its various machinations.

He even creates humor where none should have existed. Some jokes seem terribly obvious, but Grant’s delivery helps make them work.

As for Roberts, she becomes a minor disappointment. I say “minor” because I’m not all that wild about her to start, so she can’t let me down too much.

Nonetheless, she seems somewhat bland and anonymous as Anna. Little of her usual spark and friskiness come through in the part, and she appears vaguely unconvincing, even though she essentially plays a version of herself.

Frankly, the movie does a poor job of letting us know why Will becomes so smitten with Anna other than he’s supposed to do so - after all, she’s the world’s biggest actress, so of course he’d fall for her! However, Roberts doesn’t display a great deal of charm or panache in the role, and she occasionally seems awfully bitchy for the part.

Since this really becomes Grant’s movie, these concerns don’t overwhelm, however, and the supporting cast adds depth to the proceedings. While all seem solid, best of the bunch must be Rhys Ifans as Will’s housemate Spike.

He plays the part with a raw and grimy wit that makes Spike fun and endearing even though he’s mainly an irresponsible loser. Still, he’s a fun loser, and Ifans makes the most of his limited screen time.

Ultimately, Notting Hill brings a minor pleasure, but it feels like a reasonably enjoyable experience. It lacks great chemistry between its romantic leads, but the supporting cast compensates for this problem.

In the end, Notting Hill offers a fairly witty and entertaining romantic comedy. It does nothing to reinvent the genre, but it functions as a good example of the field.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Notting Hill appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with an acceptable but unimpressive presentation.

Sharpness was usually good. The movie rarely demonstrated precise delineation, but it also failed to suffer from notable softness. This left us with decent but not great definition.

No problems related to jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but light edge haloes cropped up through the movie. Digital noise reduction left this as a fairly grain-free affair, and the image could look a little mushy at times. At least I saw no specks, marks or other print flaws.

With a fairly natural palette, I thought the hues of Hill looked fine but unexceptional. The movie occasionally exhibited some bright colors, but it usually seemed ordinary in terms of its hues.

Blacks also came across with nice depth but nothing stronger, while low-light sequences demonstrated acceptable clarity and openness. Overall, Hill offered a watchable image that lacked much to make it positive.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Hill also seemed lackluster, mainly because it presented little sonic ambition. I don’t expect this sort of romantic comedy to give me something to show off my system, but the soundfield for Hill felt awfully bland nonetheless.

The front channels heavily dominated the piece, and they only sporadically offered much life of their own. Music provided pretty good stereo imaging, but effects didn’t spread out all that well. The occasional example of effects popped up on the side, but little more occurred in this subdued piece.

In regard to the surrounds, I suppose they added some light reinforcement of the music and effects. However, I felt hard-pressed to cite any examples where I noticed prominent audio from the rear.

Although the scope of the track appeared bland, the quality of the audio felt fine. Speech came across as concise and well defined, so I discerned no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility.

Music showed good range and dynamics, as the score was bright and distinct throughout the movie. Despite their small role in the presentation, effects also seemed clean and accurate.

The mix featured acceptable bass response and clarity overall. It simply failed to present an engaging soundfield, so it earned only a lackluster “B-“.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2001 DVD? Audio showed more warmth, while visuals seemed better defined and more vivid. Even with the less than stellar transfer, it acted as an improvement on the DVD.

Most of the DVD’s extras repeat, and we get an audio commentary from director Roger Michell, producer Duncan Kenworthy, and writer Richard Curtis. All three were recorded together for this running, scene-specific track. As a whole, this turns into a decent piece, but it doesn’t bring a lot to the table.

For the most part, the participants offer a rather dry look at the film. They mainly focus on issues that revolved around locations and sets plus changes that were made from script to screen, and other alterations that affected the movie.

They provide a reasonable amount of information, I suppose, and they do so in a fairly engaging manner, though this doesn’t become one of the more involving commentaries I’ve heard. Ultimately, it becomes a relatively informative track that simply becomes a bit bland at times.

Next we find a Spotlight On Location featurette. Most of these are largely promotional exercises, and this one doesn’t stray far from that formula.

The 14-minute, 48-second program gives us remarks from Curtis, Michell, Kenworthy, and actors Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville and Emma Chambers.

“Spotlight” covers story/characters as well as cast and performances. There’s lots of happy talk to be heard during this show. However, it does include enough interesting notes about the film to merit a look, as it covers some production points and general topics.

Entitled Seasonal Walk On Portobello Road, this three-minute, 30-second piece mainly focuses on one of the film’s more interesting segments, a stroll during which we go through all of the seasons. Obviously, the brevity of the piece means that it doesn’t provide terrific depth, but it was still a nice look at a distinctive scene.

Six Deleted Scenes fill a total of 12 minutes, 22 seconds. To my modest surprise, much of this material seems quite good.

Most of the snippets provide truly deleted scenes, with only one extension of an existing piece. I rather enjoy the part in which Will tells his parents about Anna, and although the alternate ending isn’t great, I prefer it to the one they use. Ultimately, this becomes a solid little collection of excised footage.

Hugh Grant’s Movie Tips gives us four minutes, 17 seconds of shtick from the actor. He provides somewhat tongue in cheek discussions of the movie business, and he clowns with crewmembers. It’s all harmless and mildly entertaining, but someone needs to tell him how to spell “feta”.

Two music videos appear. For “She”, Elvis Costello mainly lip-synchs along with the tune as shots from the film run, though he also occasionally pretends to watch and enjoy the flick. It’s a dull clip, but Elvis still rules, so I won’t slam it too hard.

In “You’ve Got a Way”, Shania Twain also lip-synchs along with the number as she traipses through a field of flowers, and this gets intercut with snippets of the flick. It’s also a dull clip, but Shania’s still hot, so I won’t slam it too hard.

Photograph Montage adds four minutes, 46 seconds of production stills from the film; these are accompanied by music from the soundtrack. These might be of interest to someone, but I thought they were quite dull.

We end with two trailers. One is the US version, while the other is the international cut.

Note that both include some deleted footage, such as a little of the scene with Will’s parents. The American one also dubs a line in which Anna refers to the Rita Hayworth film Gilda, so I guess them marketing folks thought we Yanks wouldn’t get it.

As a film, Notting Hill provides a reasonably enjoyable experience. As one who doesn’t usually like chick flicks, this acts a modest surprise, but the film shows enough wit and charm to rise above its genre limitations. The Blu-ray brings erratic visuals, adequate audio and a modest mix of bonus materials. Though this becomes a lackluster Blu-ray, the movie charms.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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