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20 Great Seconds – Notting Hill

February 21, 2012

I really don’t like Notting Hill, but it does have some great moments. Here’s one of my favorites, followed by the title sequence.

The setup: Hugh Grant has been on-again off-again with Julia Roberts the entire movie. Hugh Grant is playing a character much like Hugh Grant in most movies – disheveled and charming. Julia Roberts is playing Julia Roberts for all intents and purposes. Her character is a huge movie star who starts dating Hugh Grant. But her fame keeps getting in the way. The story seems to be that Hugh keeps screwing up and not doing the right thing by Julia, and in the end makes a big gesture to win her back, and that’s what this scene is about (sort of). They’re on their way to make the gesture, with Hugh’s friends in tow, but they’re going to leave behind the driver’s wife (it’s been too long since I’ve seen it – I don’t remember any of the characters’ names). They’re running late to get to Julia in time for the big to-do, but the driver refuses to not have his wheelchair-bound wife along on what he believes will be the most romantic thing he’s ever been witness to, so they stop, get her in the car, and then they can leave. I really love that moment.

It reminds me a lot of when I almost accidentally proposed to my wife, and I’ll put that story after the clip:

So my story: I had just accepted my current job teaching at UCA in Arkansas. One of the bigger decisions I’d made in a while, and my girlfriend (now wife) was still living in California and wasn’t really part of the decision. And I realized that I didn’t want to be making big life decisions without her, and that we should do something about that.

Unfortunately, I realized that at about 2am, many, many drinks in, and called her on the phone to tell her I had a big question for her… she figured it out pretty quick (I’m not that subtle…) and put the brakes on, since I was going to be in California a week later, and maybe that would be a better time to ask…?

And that’s what happened. Happily ever after. :)

So my take on Notting Hill… I got the exact opposite take on the story. Julia Roberts, to me, plays a pretty unfeeling witch of a woman who keeps putting off the very charming and more interesting Hugh Grant, and after many many many examples of why she should trust him, flies off the handle every chance she gets saying that she can’t trust him. She’s completely unlikable, and I don’t understand why Hugh Grant’s character likes her at all.

Which is probably not an uncommon reaction to the film, which lead to this opening title sequence. A lot of times opening titles are used to try and massage problems with the film that follows. A common one is if the film starts too slow, put in an exciting title sequence to jazz it up and set the tone for the film. Or the laughs don’t come until later in the film, so make the titles really funny to keep the audience engaged until the humor kicks in.

In this instance, the whole opening is a montage of how beautiful and charming Julia Roberts is, to counteract how she isn’t in the rest of the film. Check it out:

An opening sequence completely designed to win over people like me. Too bad it didn’t work.

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