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Notting Hill

Filthy says:
"It's not so
fucking bad."

If you noticed I was gone for a couple weeks, be reassured that I'm back and I'm fresh as a fucking daisy. In case you're wondering where I went, I spent a week sharing a motel room in Cincinnati with three masturbating coworkers from the Ralston Amoco. We were there for PumpCon 99, the annual gas station worker conference. I don't want to give the whole fucking thing away, but let's just say I think you'll be pleased by the technologies that will make your gas station experiences more fun. Get ready for interactive pumps. Was 99 the best PumpCon ever? No, that would be PumpCon 92 in San Diego when yours truly was not yet married to Mrs. Filthy and I spent the week humping a slightly overweight beach bunny with round melons. I will say this for Cincinnati, though, they got some of the finest pornos on the motel's premium channel. Cincinnati, I salute you.

Oh man, I love a good romance. There ain't nobody who bawls more than me when a romantic comedy works. "Notting Hill" is a good romantic comedy, but it falls short of being the sure-lay date movie that most of my single friends need.

Guys, if this movie didn't have a second-half you could have taken your dates straight from the theater to the bedroom and then had sex until you had a sore throat. But it does. And because the second half sucks, you're gonna have to take the girls for drinks and dessert before you can get their pants off and start playing with their clitorises.

In "Notting Hill," Julia Roberts is the biggest movie star in the world. Hugh Grant is a pansy bookstore owner. Roberts happens upon Grant's bookstore and is smitten with his English charm. They begin smooching and dating, but dating a movie star is far more complicated than Grant or Roberts expected. Grant has his heart broken, but pines for her, and eventually she comes back to him during a crisis. See, nude pictures of her from early in her career have been printed by the press. (We don't get to see the nude pics, which would have been worth another finger in the review.) Grant sleeps with her, causing her a worse crisis: being photographed with yet another man and supplying that much more for the press to dwell on. She storms off and Grant is left to pine away some more. Finally, Roberts comes back to him, but he rejects her for fear that he cannot handle her celebrity. Then, in a "wacky" madcap finish, he changes his mind and races across town to save his one last chance at true love.

Like I said, the first half of the movie is good stuff. The romance is kept light, with lots of shots of Julia Roberts looking so fucking pretty and sincere that it breaks my heart to know she's just a Goddamn phony actress. The characters are given the time to develop, be funny and likable before it thrusts them into a sloppy kiss.

Roberts fills her character with real emotion and honesty. Her character is a demanding, decisive movie star, and deep down she's unsure of herself and her decisions. It works and it makes her human and reachable. Hell, she even packs super-cornball lines like "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her," with enough sincerity to keep me from pissing my pants in laughter. Most Hollywood movies would only be able to show us a grouchy actress or an unsure one.

If I was a beautiful 31 year-old actress I'd be the same way as Roberts. And you, my fine readers, will never know how close I was to being a beautiful 31 year-old actress.

Hugh Grant plays the charming English doofus well, and I'm sure American ladies will swoon over his cute accent and relatively straight teeth. When not much is asked of Grant, he coasts along on some sort of inherent English niceness. But when he has to really act in the second half, he fails miserably. When the script asks him to be sad or confused, get ready to squirm. He looks more lost than a nun at a swinger's party.

Grant's flat-mate, Rhys Ilfans, is the standout of a fine set of supporting characters. He is a good-hearted slob, and many may find him over the top in the slob category, but those people have never lived with my old roommate Phil. Compared to Phil, Ilfans is the Tid-E-Bowl man. The secondary characterizations are swell, and most of them almost seem like real people, rather than pages from the "Shitty Screenwriter's Handbook." Yes, they are furry and cute in an Ewok sort of way, but that's the way the English are always portrayed.

It's in the second half where "Notting Hill" falls apart. Right around the midpoint, when Grant learns Roberts already has a boyfriend, some horse-fucking studio executive crouched over the script and started shitting.

"We need a car chase! We need more lame sight gags! We need the characters to whine until they are no longer amusing or attractive." All the light-hearted fun turns to lots of shots of Grant moping about, his friends setting him up on a series of "wacky" dates with other women, and then some more moping. The only times the movie works in the second half is when Roberts is around, and that's not nearly enough.

Damn you, Hollywood! Damn you to hell! You tease us, the little people who go to the movies to escape the boredom of our own lives. You entice us with likable people and intriguing situations, and then while we're not looking, you flay the flesh from our shins and apply tight vises to our genitals. Figuratively speaking, of course.

The ending sucks donkey balls worse than this showgirl I saw in Tijuana once. To add insult to inury, the movie spits the donkey come on you, the audience. For no good reason, the director and writer shoehorned a clichéd car chase culminating in a cheesy confrontation where Grant and Roberts profess their undying love for each other. This is followed by a montage of Roberts giving up her life being the biggest star in the world so she can live in dirty old England with Grant. They get married and she gets pregnant. I think the message is that it is easy for a woman to give up a very lucrative career in a great country to go live with a limey in a grimy one. That's how love works. I don't buy it.

It shortchanges Roberts' character. For most of the movie she is strong, and in control of her life. She's flawed, but at least she is strong. Then, all of the sudden, she's a sappy, stupid girl who can't manage fame and a boyfriend? Bull-fucking-shit. Ms. Roberts, I like you as the strong broad, not the dope, so unless you straighten up, you'll never get some Filthy in your pants.

This also skirts an issue that would have been interesting enough in itself to base the movie on. Obviously Grant's character is

Hey Kids, get Filthy's Reading, Listening and Movie Picks for this week.

as much or more attracted to Robert's celebrity and beauty than he is to her as a real person. By making them live happily ever after without really telling us he loved her for anything more, it suggests that superficial attraction is enough to make love last.

I guess we have to settle for half a great movie, because we're lucky even when Hollywood cranks that out. It's three fingers.

One final note: I find it funny that when Hollywood casts secondary characters for movies set in America, the young people are always attractive. When they make a movie in England, they cast hairy elves in the secondary roles. Hollywood thinks English people are cute, like stuffed animals, and not attractive, like Americans.

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