A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Notting Hill is a 1999 romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. There's some profanity, including "f--k," as well as off-color one-liners of a sexual nature and men overheard speaking about having sex with celebrities in a sexist and objectifying manner. William's flatmate makes crude remarks and wears lewd T-shirts. A good deal of alcohol is consumed at parties. There are comments about breasts, men leering at breasts, questions about sleeping with someone, and jokes about masturbating. Also, a comment about seeing old friend Pandora's "box." The two leads are seen postcoital, but not naked. Lead female character, an A-list actress, learns of a sex tape of her that has surfaced and is now fodder for the tabloids. While it's a predictable enough, if wittier than average, romcom, a recurring theme is a questioning of our celebrity-obsessed culture and the way celebrities are perceived as both worthy of being placed on a pedestal but also easily knocked down for the sheer spectacle of it. A character who is confined to a wheelchair due to an unfortunate accident isn't portrayed as a lamentable victim worthy of pity, but as a dry-humored, three-dimensional character like other characters.
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What's the story?
In this romantic comedy set in London, the quiet life of sweet, bumbling Notting Hill bookseller William Thacker (Hugh Grant) is turned upside-down after a chance encounter with American movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), who's in London for a film shoot. Constantly hounded by the paparazzi and rarely able to escape her entourage, Anna finds herself attracted to William's adorably humble manner, simple life, and down-to-earth friends. Romance blooms between the unlikely pair, but Anna's fame poses serious challenges to the budding relationship, as does her on-again, off-again affair with arrogant actor boyfriend Jeff King (Alec Baldwin).
Is it any good?
While this romantic comedy doesn't expose the dirty underbelly of our celebrity-crazed culture, it's definitely funny. Hugh Grant plies his trademark self-effacing act to great effect. The writers also give Grant some wonderfully funny lines to deliver. Julia Roberts plays the straight character with just the right angst and desire, and William's grungy flatmate Spike nearly steals the movie with his outrageous outfits and disastrous hygiene.
Despite the story's attempt to maintain an ironic tone, it descends into mawkish sentimentality at times. It also bogs down in the last 15 minutes -- just bring the two leads together, already! Overall, this is a fine movie for teens and parents to share together.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about romantic comedies. How does this romcom stick to the common formula used in the genre? How does it break the mold?
How does the movie make a comment about celebrity and our celebrity-obsessed culture?
The lead female character, an A-list celebrity, quotes Rita Hayworth, who once said, "Men go to bed with Gilda [one of Hayworth's most famous roles], and wake up with me." What does this quote mean? What kind of comment does it make about the way in which most people see famous entertainers?
- In theaters: November 10, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 1999
- Cast: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans
- Director: Roger Michell
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: content and brief strong language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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