Notting Hill is very different from the usual romantic comedies you end up watching these days. Sure, it does contain the same elements; smart, witty and literate dialogues combined with some really colourful characters who have been fully written.
William Thacker (Hugh Grant) is a small bookstore in Notting Hill that is certainly down on his luck; the store is in the doldrums when Hollywood actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks in as she is promoting her new film. The two have a very cute and funny meeting as William's bookstore owner apprehends a shoplifter in the midst of their conversation. There isn't much said or done throughout the film, but there are very slight gestures and enjoyable acting that shares the fact that there are certainly more possibilities left in this newly found relationship.
The two meet again at various times and their meetings are everything at once that we need, but in a small package. These meetings are smart, sweet and entirel believable, but they don't go for grand scenes, they're twice as effective as that; these meetings build off as small events like William spilling orange juice on Anna in the street. Soon enough, William finds himself sneaking into a press conference for Anna's new film in a hilarious sequence where William must pretend to be a reporter. It's during these scenes that are a good example of why I liked Hugh Grant so much in this film. He's shaped into that sort of a bit into a sharper, smarter more detailed and interesting performance that combines both comedy and a little bit of drama into a far better performance.
The story is very predictable but still one feels like watching it for the fun. It's only through the performances and the very literate screenplay that makes it an enjoyable watch. Notting Hill isn't really a satire or even that much of a look at the sort of privacy and fame issue that the films seems to be going for before it starts. It certainly has elements that either joke or hint at the reality of showbiz, but it uses these elements to fuel the romantic drama/comedy of the film and it works.
Hugh Grant is smart, funny and detailed in his performance. Julia Roberts is as usual stunning and her performance as Anna combines timing and sweetness. There were some genuinely believable flaws that were intentionally added into the personalities of both and she makes particularly effective use of building these flaws into a very real and memorable character that we can sympathize with because she's not perfect. The surrounding characters, especially William's roommate is very funny and wonderfully written here as well and provides an enjoyable comic background to the proceedings.
Summing it up, I really enjoyed Notting Hill. Like the characters involved, the film possesses a couple of flaws, but it's so wonderfully made and greatly acted that you can't help being charmed by it. It's a very smart romantic comedy and one of the best films produced by Universal Pictures. On the ratings scale, this movie gets a good three and a half out of five.