Review: Notting Hill (1999) *****

Notting Hill is one of the more charming, off-beat romcoms of the 90s, focusing on acting greats Rhys Ifans and Emma Chambers as they fall in love.

Surely you already know household name Rhys Ifans, whether in his performance as Sherlock’s brother on Elementary (when he was a lazy but sophisticated man of the world) or when he was the villainous enemy on House of the Dragon. He really shows off his range.

In this role, Ifans is a dodgy Welsh guy who lives in a Notting Hill flat. He wants love, but he’s not sure how to approach it. Clearly without social skills, including no sense of appropriate dresswear, Ifans has found himself a bit of an outsider. Much of his socialization comes from a flatmate who owns a bookstore, and Hugh Grant’s mumblingly incoherent character seems to tolerate Ifans at best.

Still, it’s impossible not to fall in love with a hero who is so unabashedly himself. He doesn’t hesitate to wear a scuba suit if that’s all he’s got. When he finds himself unexpectedly in front of cameras wearing nothing but pants, it’s not a moment of shame, but a moment of self-celebration. Try not to swoon when he playfully clenches his buttcheeks.

As his opposite, we have Chambers as Honey, the adorable sister to the bookseller flatmate. Her distinctive features are played up for effect and everyone acts like she’s odd-looking in comparison to other people, rather than just looking like a normal human. Pronounced eyes (exophthalamus) and brittle hair might be indicative of a thyroid disease, but everyone just sorta treats her as a weird lil uggo.

It’s easy to judge Honey. Much like Ifans, Chambers’s character is socially inappropriate. She’s got no boundaries meeting a prospective sister-in-law the first time and seems to have lost the filter between her brain and mouth.

Real love often involves meeting people exactly where they are, which Chambers and Ifans do here, falling in love over the course of some random six-month depression that Grant’s character sustains. By the end of the movie, I’m cheering for Chambers to subtly shoot a marriage proposal at the dinner table to Ifans: the celebration of love over human mediocrity.

For the dodgy-looking weirdos out there, this is one of the most loving romcoms possible.

Oh there’s an A-plot as well. Actress, shopkeeper. They are very attractive. I want to make them kiss like dolls.

But mostly the Rhys Ifans stuff.

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