Old Lady Movie Night Old Lady Movie Night: ‘Notting Hill' Anne T. Donahue

Does everyone remember 1999? Maybe? No? Okay. Well I do. I was 14, and Notting Hill was a thing and I remember the Mom of the kids I was babysitting rented it JUST FOR ME so I wouldn’t  K.O. out of boredom after the kids went to bed. (Coolest mom ever!)

Well, guys, you have no idea how much my world was changed. First, HUGH GRANT (hello, how are you, would you like to hold hands?), and second, JULIA ROBERTS. A person I absolutely wanted to be.

Now, I know what you must be thinking: “Anne, remember how we all already watched Erin Brockovich and you already told us how obsessed you were with Julia Roberts?” And I do. But this was two years before (Ashley and I quoted Erin Brockovich repeatedly and out of context), and those two years between 13 and 15 are vast and unrelenting. Also, all I wanted to be was a grown up. And who’s a better grown up than Julia Roberts? NOBODY. (And seriously, we haven’t even gotten to Stepmom and THAT in itself is just a wide world of “I wore a pleather coat because Julia Roberts looked cool in her leather coat and I wanted to be her.”) So here we are. NOTTING HILL, everyone. The heartwarming fil-im of the late 1990s that starred Julia Roberts as an actress (who is arguably also Julia Roberts), and Hugh Grant BEFORE he became the Prime Minister of England.

(We’ll get to Love Actually in December, everyone. Obviously.)

1. RHYS IFANS

What a disaster in this movie! And I hate to say it, but my impression of him is STILL tarnished because of this character. I see him on the red carpet and in actual other movies, and I still think, “God, what a mess. Those novelty t-shirts! What the hell is his problem?” and this was a movie that was made OVER TEN YEARS AGO. So Rhys Ifans, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that because of that opening scene with your novelty t-shirts, I think you are actually this person.

Prove me wrong, Rhys. Prove me wrong.

2. Well right off the bat I would be a lot less cool than Hugh Grant is being

Here’s the thing: if an A-list celebrity had walked into the American Eagle where I worked, I would have morphed into some type of shrew and spoken only in code. I WOULD HAVE BEEN ILL-PREPARED. No one is prepared for an A-list celebrity in a retail scenario! How is Hugh Grant keeping it together? Because he is an actor? And he is reading the words on a script? Who can be sure? Not any of us. Maybe Hugh Grant. (Rhys Ifans, if you’re still reading this, could you please ask Hugh Grant on behalf of me?)

3. So Roofus is stealing books, but he doesn’t know how to read?

This always confused me. First, we’ve got DYLAN MORAN playing Roofus (whose name I know I am spelling wrong, but who I am choosing to use as an excuse to drop the phrase we all remember from Never Been Kissed) (and that I tried desperately to help make catch on) stealing a book, but then we have him asking Julia Roberts what she wrote on a piece of paper? SO WHAT IS HAPPENING. Did the system fail Roofus or does Anna have the worst handwriting in the world? WHY DID THIS SCENE EVEN TAKE PLACE. Maybe so this next scene could…?

4. Don’t cry over spilled OJ!

Seriously, Julia Roberts, CALM DOWN. What a diva! Who gets so mad over orange juice? Also, “GIVE IT TO ME IN YARDS.” Relax! Breathe! You’re hysterical! I always hated the way she acted until, well, the end, basically, because YIKES. And then she walks down the stairs wearing some two-piece sparkly outfit with a turtleneck? And then Hugh Grant keeps asking her if she’d like something to eat or drink, and she just stands in his kitchen staring at him and saying “no” rudely. What a terrible human being.  At least say thank you and LEAVE.

5. Or kiss Hugh Grant?

And what was THIS? Did any of us ask this question when this movie took place? Probably not, because I would also like to just show up and kiss Hugh Grant like it’s 1999 if I were Julia Roberts playing Julia Roberts (and also if he and I had been holding hands). But seriously, where did her social skills go and why have they been terribly abandoned? And let’s not forget that BEFORE she kissed him, he says something like, “Surreal… but nice” and she just waits for the door to be opened for her before she leaves…? Like she doesn’t know how to open a door on her own? Not even “Thank you for offering me a drink, kind man!” or “Remember when you ruined my t-shirt? Just kidding! I’ll take a tea.” WHAT AND WHY ALL OVER THE PLACE.

6. But IS Anna insane is the real question of the hour

Right? She shows up and she just kisses him and then is all, “Prooobbbaaaaaably best not to tell anyone about this” and then just peaces the eff out of his apartment. So … do you just go around kissing random civilians then, A-lister? WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH A-LISTERS is something I imagine Jerry Seinfeld would ask while watching this scene. And what if she and Hugh Grant hadn’t run into each other again? I mean, she called him over for that press conference thingee, BUT HUSH. Also, how did she get his number in the first place?

7. HORSE AND HOUND

So after playing it PERFECTLY COOL in the bookshop and brief kiss moment, Hugh Grant shows up and can’t even ask BASIC QUESTIONS about a movie. Not even, “What makes getting into character your greatest challenge” or even “Why don’t you tell me about your upcoming projects.” You know? THOSE questions? But NooooOOOOoooo: Horse and Hound it is. Out of any other magazine in the entire world that has ever existed. Think, Hugh Grant! Use your head! (I love you.)

8. Okay, so I’m going to go right ahead and say the most obvious thing in the world: POOR HUGH GRANT

This poor guy owns this almost going out of business book shop, and then this A-list celebrity shows up and starts talking to him and kisses him at his apartment, and then she TOTALLY messes with his mind for the next two hours. She even has a secret boyfriend! She doesn’t even tell him that he’s about to go into a press situation! Like, even if she were to be like, “Hey — there’s this press thing happening, and I don’t know if it will be over yet, but come by because I’d like to talk to you” that would be fine. Instead she says EIGHT WORDS and can’t even tell her publicist that she needs two minutes alone with him. Just the worst, you guys. POOR HUGH GRANT INDEED.

9. AHH THEIR DYNAMIC I CAN’T

So now they’re going on about this “dream scenario” and nobody is saying anything even remotely close to actual English, and Hugh Grant is edging SO CLOSE TO HER but like, one centimetre per eight minutes and NO. JUST BE COOL EVERYONE. OR NORMAL.

10. And SPEAKING of normal, none of these fake/real/fake actors are

How are they not engaging Hugh Grant in any way? He’s asking questions and this one guy’s like, “Why don’t you tell me what bit you enjoyed, and I’ll tell you if I enjoyed making that bit.” WHAT?! Who says that?! The most terrible human in the world, I imagine. And then there’s the guy who doesn’t speak English and answers only in one word responses. And THEN Mischa Barton shows up and is all, “I enjoyed working with Leonardo” and WHAT. From what I’ve learned from asking people about their careers (music and pop culture journalism, say what!), people LOVE talking about their work. So I have no idea who these actors are, but wow. WOW, EVERYONE.

11. I grew up thinking adulthood was like everyone at this dinner party

Right?! Don’t they seem like they have everything together and they’re amazing? (Unlike, say, some of us, who have been eating fast food in various parking lots over the last couple of days.) Also, the lovely ex-girlfriend of Hugh Grant in the wheelchair is also in Atonement I THINK, which makes me like her even more. ADULTHOOD! Maybe like this in your 30s? Not like this in your 20s. BUT I WISH, EVERYONE.

12. BERNIE IS THE DAD IN DOWNON ABBEY

Listen. Let’s just get something out of the way right now: I love Downton Abbey more than anyone can understand. And HUGH BONNEVILLE IS IN THIS. You know? Remmeber? As Bernie? Bernie the friend who has no clue that he’s talking to Anna Scott? This is EXACTLY why I love movies. Because there might be a chance Hugh Bonneville is in them.

13. Oh, but seriously this dinner scene and the song and ahhhh I LOVE THIS

Even though we all know that Anna Scott is legitimately insane and kind of the worst, THIS PART, RIGHT? Oh my goodness, I mean, here’s why I love what’s happening (and if you’ve seen this movie you TOTALLY know what I’m talking about):

- BOYZONE (I loved Boyzone) (I still love Boyzone) (Where did Boyzone go?)

- This dinner party! No other dinner party in the world will ever be as good as this one. Even the most fun kind. Even my BIRTHDAY (next Wednesday!!!) will compare.

- THE FOOD. That brownie. Give me that brownie, film from 1999. Reach out of the TV and give me that brownie because I deserve it. (And not because I’m sad, but because I just really work hard to find and eat delicious brownies.)

14. Woah but then this dinner party gets DARK

Well, let’s all just slow down here with our naval-gazing, friends. We went from having the best dinner party in the world to fighting over a brownie by comparing everything bad about their lives. Also, Anna — yikes. Your life kiiiind of sucks! But I almost feel like you’re CHOOSING to make your life suck? Like, maybe it’s the 1990s and she was afraid to say, “Actually I’m going to eat whatever I want and I’m not going to get plastic surgery and I’m going to choose better film roles and not date terrible guys.” I don’t know. But also not even TRYING to be like, “Hey guys! Let’s laugh!” Instead, she one-ups the friends who can’t have kids and … man. TOO SOON, ANNA. Everyone just have some wine and enjoy some brownies and I mean, I had mice in my apartment before I moved back, so like, where’s MY brownie?

15. “Whoopsy Daisy!”

I still laugh. I still laugh so hard.

16. AND THE BENCH

Oh, THE BENCH. Here’s how to make me cry in a movie: add Boyzone. Refer to a bench that some heart-broken man dedicated to his wife, and then have the dedication be read out loud while Boyzone is playing. IT KILLS ME. (I mean, not right now, because I’m writing — but usually!) And now Anna’s all, “Some people DO spend their whole lives together” and YES THEY DO, ANNA. AND NOW BOYZONE IS PLAYING EVEN MORE HOW DARE YOU NOT BE CRYING AT THIS IF YOU ARE WATCHING THIS SERIOUSLY AND FOR REAL.

I love and miss you, Boyzone.

17. But okay  now we can laugh for a minute!

Because let’s forget about the bench and appreciate that Hugh Grant has shown up to a movie looking like this!

18. Ugh, THESE GUYS

So now we’re at the part where Anna and Hugh Grant are at the restaurant and they’re overhearing those terrible guys talk about women in the worst possible way (I HATE THEM), and basically let’s just go right ahead and say they represent the internet and its commenters. BUT I love that Anna gets to pull the ultimate “DROPS MIC” move when she confronts them because who would love to do that in real life? All of us. WE ALL WOULD. But all the points Anna just gained by being awesome was lost when…

19. Her boyfriend is here?!

First, WHAT UP ALEC BALDWIN. Second, you didn’t tell Hugh Grant about your boyfriend? What is WRONG with you, Anna Scott! You just had dinner and he was telling you all about his divorce, and you didn’t even mention that you’re seeing someone WHO IS FAMOUS? Why? WHY. This scene always makes me so angry. Even if my best friend pulled this on a dude, there’d be a serious falling out between us until she righted that wrong. Also, POOR HUGH GRANT for the thousandth time. And I get that we’re supposed to feel crappy for him, but I’m also a little mad at him for not being like, “What is your deal, Anna Scott?” (I mean, I can’t really say that because I’ve put myself in equally terrible positions — BUT STILL.) And how long before she was actually going to tell him? Was she NEVER going to tell him? Because maybe her boyfriend didn’t show up (in an alternate universe), and then she just disappeared and this was a fling and I DON’T KNOW.

What I do know is that I hate this part. I hate it.

20. And let’s be honest: it takes a lot of guts to go to the house of a man you emotionally destroyed

Right? I feel like I’m different than Anna in that say, if I had a secret boyfriend and was leading this other guy on and then the poor other guy found out, I would probably NOT go to his house? I would probably stay in LA or in my hotel room or call my best friend and say, “WELP, we have a situation.” And then I would fly them out with my millions of movie star dollars and say, “HELP ME LET’S STRESS EAT.” I would NOT go to the guy’s house and ask him to draw me a bath …? HUGH GRANT, IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY.

(…In time. Because first he and Anna have to sleep together, and then Spike has to call the paparazzi, and then she has to get mad at Hugh Grant and leave him even MORE emotionally destroyed. All that has to happen. And THEN he’s okay.)

(Also, WHY IS ANNA SCOTT SO MAD AT HUGH GRANT ABOUT THE PHOTOGS?! HE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING.)

21. BUT to fast forward… 

To showing up on the Henry James set! I mean, let’s ignore the fact that it seems like 25925285 months happened between when Anna Scott introduced him to her surprise boyfriend and then showed up on Hugh Grant’s doorstep, and then another 592582525 months between when she got mad at Hugh Grant and then he showed up on her film set, BUT STILL.

ANYWHO. Approximately 14 years after their original meeting, Hugh Grant descends on Julia Roberts’ Henry James film set (uninvited) (would she have called him if he DIDN’T show up?) and overhears her talking about him in the most condescending way. AND THEN she defends it by saying to him that the guy she was speaking to has the biggest mouth in the industry and blah blah blah WHY WOULDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING ELSE. Like, if I want to keep something to myself, I usually just say, “Oh, he’s my friend’s brother — we’re meeting her after the shoot.” And then the guy would say, “Oh cool.” Or if he goaded her on, she could say, “Why are you asking me so many questions, you freak?” Right?! Why would you dismiss him so terribly?! YOU GO, HUGH GRANT. YOU GO ALL THE WAY AWAY FROM THAT FILM SET.

22. “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

Every movie needs a drop mic/YOLO moment. And this is TOTALLY that part*.

*Except Anna does not drop her mic. She drops her heart. All over the floor. BUT IT’S OKAY: it gets cleaned right up and it’s fine, IT’S FINE, EVERYONE.

23. AND THEN Spike and his sister get together!

I mean, not to overshadow the “important” Notting Hill story, but how great was THIS. Like, let’s just sit next to each other, guy I kind of know, and BOOM I tell everyone that I’m engaged and surprise! It’s to you! Would that work in real life? Like, if I’m in a situation where Hugh Grant and I are sitting next to each other, can I surprise everyone including him with that announcement and not be served with a restraining order? Would anybody like to try it and report back here?

24. Car chase scene!

It is NOT a movie without a car chase scene, everybody in the entire world knows that. So obviously because the Bourne movies had yet to be released, Notting Hill realized their flick was missing some serious action and HOW DO THEY CREATE IT? By chasing down … TIME. Not even a thing! They are chasing down a press conference! And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, Helen pretends she’s writing a piece on how hotels treat clients in wheelchairs and makes us all feel worse about not being that quick-thinking.

Arguably, the rest of us would just be still standing in front of that front desk going, “Oh, um… I don’t know. Like, can I just go to the press conference? Can you please just let me go in?” And then the movie would end with us just looking really confused and stressed out. THANKFULLY that doesn’t happen. But could you imagine, you guys?

25. AND THE BENCH

I mean, if you’re going to end on anything, end on THE BENCH. Even if the movie ended with Willow (is that her name?) and Spike sitting on the bench I would be happy. Even if it ended with just the bench growing arms and writing “Notting Hill” on a piece of paper and holding it up to the camera, I would be happy. Even if it just ended with the bench dreaming everything up until this point, I’d be fine.

Basically what I’m saying is that I love Notting Hill, and what I love even more than Notting Hill is the bench.

Rhys Ifans, if you’re still reading this, it was a slice.

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  1. Ahh yes but how about the bit where Hugh Grant calls himself Bernie when hes pretending to be the room service boy?!

  2. My all time favorite movie! Thank you for this one. :)

  3. I planned my whole life for the song in the park to be my wedding song and listened to it over and over and OVER. We went with a different song however. My husband had no attachment to it. This article did inspire me though to whip out my old video iPod and listen to soundtrack at work. I still love ” when u say nothing at all” :)

  4. Thank you for this. I was 12 when this movie came out. I had it recorded off of HBO, and I, too, was obsessed with the soundtrack. My life was ruined when I accidentally stepped on my CD and broke it.

  5. Great article. Just FYI , it’s Ronan keating alone singing ‘ when you say nothing at all ‘ in the park bench scene. I know cause I was OBSESSED with soundtrack and movie at 15. Great music, great movie!