Hugh Grant runs a bookshop in a fairy tale version of London’s Notting Hill, and Julia Roberts is a Hollywood film star who walks in one day and changes his life.
Much of the fun of this romcom is had at the expense of the oppressive media bubble which surrounds top celebrities. How Grant repeatedly bursts through the one around Roberts makes for some outstanding set piece gags, with particular giggle-packed honours going to the scenes in which he pretends to be a journalist.
At the heart of their delicate courtship, the way in which the very wary Roberts repeatedly shifts from being soft and insecure, to hard and cynical and then back again is a credit both to her acting skills and to the bittersweet precision of Richard Curtis’ script.
In the role that launched his career, Rhys Ifans almost steals the film as Grant’s loud-mouthed, slobbish lodger, while Alec Baldwin has a telling cameo as Roberts’ Hollywood lover. Above all, though, this is Grant’s movie and he is perfect.