Tag Archives: Hugh Grant

Notting Hill

Don’t even try to tell me you’re not charmed by Notting Hill. Don’t. Even.

Directed by Roger Michell from Richard Curtis’s script, it’s really just about a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to play it cool, goddammit.

Mega superstar and talented actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into a cute neighbourhood (travel) book store and meets bumbling store owner Will (Hugh Grant) and though their worlds are both geographically and metaphorically miles apart, they somehow allow a mutual attraction to play out.

Endearingly, their first real date is a group thing, a dinner party thrown in honour of Will’s little sister’s birthday. The friends assembled are a notable bunch of kooks. The birthday girl, Honey (Emma Chambers), has no chill at all; having always fantasized a famous bestie, she immediately gloms on to Anna. Host and cook Max (Tim McInnerny) will be mortified he’s just served meat to a vegetarian. His wife Bella (Gina McKee) is just so happy that Will’s brought a girl that she can’t help but embarrass him over and over. And hopeless Bernie (Hugh Bonneville) is sweetly clueless, not even recognizing the fame monster in their midst, and benignly quizzing her as to whether she’s able to get by on a working actor’s wages (she is). They’re a bunch of nuts, but they’re quite delightful as a group, and Anna is made to feel welcome and not too conspicuous. Will is a door to a quieter, humbler way of life. Not always enamoured with the trappings of fame – though clearly tied to them financially – it’s a wonderful respite for Anna. But is that enough?

No one recites a Richard Cutis line quite as well as Hugh, and no one twinkles half as hard as Julia. They were perhaps not the best of mates on set but it’s a testament to their talent that they are nothing but fireworks on screen.

The cool thing about this movie is that it was actually filmed on the streets of Notting Hill. There really was a house with a blue door (Curtis lived there for a time himself). And there really was a travel book shop, though it was too narrow to film in, so they confiscated an antiques store around the corner and outfitted it with books. Notting Hill has since been overrun with tourists, and not just the kind who come to snap a few pictures and leave. Many have been enticed to buy property there; prices in the area went up by 66% in the 5 years since the movie was released, double the growth rate elsewhere in London. 

Anyway, this film isn’t deep, and perhaps not altogether realistic, either. But it’s so filled with good cheer you don’t mind. And of course you know exactly where it’s going practically before it even starts, but the fun is in the getting there because you get to ride along with such an oddball cast of characters, plus a couple of romantic leads at their peak, floppy haired cuteness.

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Paddington 2

I’m not sure what happened, really. I saw Paddington 2 all by lonesome in a cozy dark theatre on a snowy afternoon and then promptly forgot to tell you all about it, apparently. I think it got swept up by the Black Panther press screening we attended later (is that right? I don’t even know anymore!).

Anyway, the bear. The bear is cute and cuddly and everything that is right with movies generally and family movies in particular. It does not particularly pander to adults (aside from that nostalgia factor) but its earnestness and whimsical panache will reel you in like a bear to marmalade.

Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are back and Mary and Henry Brown, the big-hearted couple who adopted sweet Paddington in the first movie. He’s well ensconced in the Brown family, but gets into a bit of a scrape when his plan to earn money doing odd jobs (VERY odd jobs) for his aunt Lucy’s birthday present goes Brody-Paddington-2awry. Basically he’s chosen too good a gift, and someone beats him to it – a thief! But it’s poor Paddy who gets the blame, and somehow he gets thrown into gen pop prison, even though a) he’s a bear and b) he’s really just a cub. It says terrible things about Britain’s criminal justice system, when you think about it. Anyway, while in prison he falls in with rather a rough crowd, as tends to happen, and soon he’s Knuckles’ bitch. I mean, it’s decidedly less vulgar than I’m implying. He and Brendan Gleeson basically make sandwiches together until until either they escape or the Brown family gets their shit together.

Hugh Grant joins the cast as a rather seedy actor, a part he seems quite qualified to play. In fact, a whole Boaty McBoatload of famous British actors line up to do these movies so you can basically play a rousing round of who’s who Bingo and never come up short.

Paddington 2 still enjoys a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I’m certainly not going to be the difference maker. It’d charm the pants right off you, if only Paddington was the sort of bear who wears pants (he’s not; he thinks a coat and hat suffice). It’s awfully sweet but not tooth-decayingly, and it’ll warm up your hibernating heart.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins was a real woman, a patroness of the arts who supported almost all of New York’s musical endeavours and dedicated her life to her passion, singing. She was instructed by leading maestros and had orchestras and composers at her beck and call – her generous donations made sure of that.

Just one tiny hiccup: she couldn’t sing to save her life. Her singing was not unlike a dying florence-foster-jenkins-2016-meryl-streep.pngsquirrel’s trying to evacuate a burning building. Horrendous. But she had no flipping idea. Meryl Streep plays Florence with gusto. We all know Meryl can sing: she’s been in Mama Mia and Into The Woods. She’s got pipes. But in this movie she manages to unabashedly sound like someone took a hacksaw to those pipes and stuffed them full of gasoline-soaked rags. It’s stupendous. Her caterwauling never fails to get a laugh and it was amazing to me how long she could sustain that, how funny she could make the same joke, in slightly different, gutsy ways.

Hugh Grant plays Florence’s husband, St Clair, the man behind the “talent” who applauds her every croak and covers up the critics. Their love is tender but their relationship unique. It’s unusual to see a marriage so complex and interesting portrayed without judgement. Simon Helberg plays Mr. McMoon, the man engaged to be her accompanist. An able pianist, he struggles to attach his rising star to her pitiful performances, but it’s amazing how far money and connections will get you. Helberg, nearly unknown to me, creates a florence-foster-jenkins1memorable character of his own in the shadow of two much bigger leads, but he manages to earn his own laughs and distinguish himself.

Meryl Streep is an absolute star and she’ll be a big part of why you love this movie. She finds nuance in her tuneless moaning and clinches the laugh time and time again. I couldn’t help it, not that I must wanted to. And Hugh Grant is charming as ever, and dare I say, reaching beyond his usual repertoire to be worthy of The Streep. It works. They have a distinct, affectionate chemistry that you want to be a part of. Director Stephen Frears knows how to tell a sympathetic story without disempowering anyone.

I thought a lot about the American Idol contestants purposely selected for their awfulness so that we may bond in our mockery of them. Florence Foster Jenkins was a 1940s era William Hung. No one has ever had the courage or the temerity to tell her she’s bad, and so she persists, believing that she’s good. Maybe even great. But Streep pulls it off infectiously, plays delusional faith in herself with sweetness and not inconsiderable vulnerability.  And yet we anticipate her humiliation. Will she ever find out the truth? And who among us will be most devastated?

quote-some-may-say-that-i-couldn-t-sing-but-no-one-can-say-that-i-didn-t-sing-florence-foster-jenkins-78-98-56In truth, this film may not have a lot of staying power, unlike the lady herself who is remembered these 75 years later. She lived authentically, and those who loved her told the Good Lie. I was touched. Frears is careful to avoid cruelty, pushing the bounds of mockery and sincerity without ever overstepping, and so wins our respect. And frankly, so does Florence.

Love Actually

I’ve actually started packing away my copy of Love Actually with my Christmas decorations every year, which limits my viewing of it to just once, annually. This is a necessary precaution because it’s way too easy for me to get swept away in this movie.Love_Actually_movie

It feels like the ultimate romantic movie, possibly because in this movie Hugh Grant AND Colin Firth both get the girl. But for every frenzied makeout session, there’s also a cold, awkward peck on the cheek. Your heart breaks as much as it soars. There’s grand gestures, and well thought-out lingerie, slow dancing cheek to cheek, and enough first kisses to charm even the more cynical hearts.

But for me, this movie excels not in its romantic tropes, but in the darker corners. You don’t need this movie to tell you that Emma Thompson is superb, but it does confirm it. The scene when she’s in the bedroom, having just unwrapped Joni Mitchell instead of jewelry, is moving and real. Only a few moments (and even fewer tears) are devoted to her broken heart and we watch her pull herself back together to give her children a smiling, overbright Christmas. Only an extended hug for brother David belies just how much she’s hurting. This movie happens to take place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and while the magic of the season seems to heighten the romantic aspects, and give courage to those who need it, it also highlights the loneliness, the forced joviality, the false cheer.

There’s probably some sort of personality test about which couple your root for in this movie, but I must confess, I also adore the non-romantic-couple bits: the sweet and silly bromance between Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and his fat manager, the sacrifice of Sarah (Laura Linney) for her institutionalized brother, the shared grief and renewed bond between Daniel (Liam Neeson) and his young stepson.

I’ve been watching this movie for a decade and I still squeal at all my favourite parts: the papier-mache lobster head, the Rowan Atkinson gift wrapping, the Beatles sendoff, Hugh Grant dancing unselfconsciously, the falling in love by subtitles between Jamie and Aurelia, Martin Freeman warming up his hands for “the nipples,” Rick Grimes taking a break from zombies. This movie has it all, and I’ve certainly heard it criticized for being over-stuffed, but personally I wouldn’t know which subplot to cut. Sure it’s self-indulgent, but watching this movie every year is a gift I give myself.

 

 

The assholes will be reviewing their favourite holiday movies all December long, so stay tuned!