Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday At the Movies #5

Focus on Hugh Grant comedies this time. We've already covered Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually, but there's oh so much more.

Two Weeks Notice has Hugh Grant (once again playing an Englishman in New York) as George, the insufferable yet chipper (and extremely wealthy)boss of Sandra Bullock's Lucy, an attorney who wants to stand up for what's right, be that preserving a local landmark or observing common courtesy. George, as she discovers, is far from common or courteous, and Lucy puts her foot down after George pushes her one step too far. This is a delightful romantic comedy spin on the old maxim "you don't know what you've got until it's gone." George's all out efforts to reform and win Lucy's loyalty and love (especially what he does during the traffic jam scene) show Lucy that she can't always take things as they are at first glance. The final scene, capping a long-running gag involving takeout food, is heartwarming as well as amusing.

Notting Hill also belongs among Mr Grant's best, as he plays Will Thacker, recently divorced and the owner of a small travel bookshop who never expects anything exciting, and has those expectations blown out of the water when a surprise encounter with Anna Scott, the most famous actress of the moment, portrayed by Julia Roberts. Will offers Anna a moment of everyday courtesy in her moment of need and thus begins an unlikely, and surprisingly real love story. Anna's celebrity isn't treated as glamorous, but focuses more on the hard work involved in the job of an A-list actor. Though both want the comfortable space to work out their relationship in its own time, the publicity machine has other ideas, and these two are going to have to work hard and risk much for their eventual HEA. The time-lapse scene of Will walking through Nottting Hill during his separation from Anna is one of the most gorgeous pieces of film I have ever seen, and Will and Anna's dinner with his family touches even the hardest hearts. Rhys Ifans provides sparkling comic accents as Will's horrendous flatmate, and Harry Connick Jr's music wraps everything in a big, beautiful bow.

Music and Lyrics has Alex Fletcher, the other half of 80's supergroup Pop! - the unsuccessful half. With his former partner having gone on to stratospheric success, Alex is resigned to life as a has-been, performing exclusively at 80s nostalgia venues. A career path that his manager, played to perfection by Brad Garrett, informs him is petering out, as there are new old acts coming along all the time. Possible salvation arrives when Cora Corman, the current big thing in the pop music world, invites Alex to write her next hit song, and perform it with her. Two hitches. One, there's an extremely tight deadline and two, Alex is great with a melody, but hopeless with lyrics. During a session with a hired lyricist, he seizes on a much better option - his plant waterer, Sophie Fisher, played by Drew Barrymore, who is a born natural for this sort of thing. Though Sophie resists at first, out of her own fears of being washed up as a writer, the two find a way to make beautiful music together, both literally and figuratively. Yes, that is Hugh Grant doing his own singing and piano playing, skills he learned for this role.

Giving a nod to Father's Day, let's look at About A Boy. Adapted from the Nick Hornsby novel, Hugh Grant's Will (different character from Notting Hill, no relation) is a proudly shallow libertine, living off the proceeds from his late father's hit novelty song. Will prides himself on living only for himself and not needing anybody, but there's one activity that's much more fun with somebody else, meaning female somebody elses, and when Will discovers that single mothers are often emotionally vulnerable, he sets off on a path that doesn't lead anywhere near his expectations. Will masquerades as a single father to join Single Parents Alone Together, going through ridiculous extremes to create a phantom child and phantom ex, until reality, in the form of school-age Marcus, played by Nicholas Hoult, smacks him in the face. Or a duck in the head, to be exact. Marcus tags along on Will's date with a friend of his mother's...while his mother, Fiona, played to perfection by Toni Collette, attempts suicide as a way out of her deep depression. Marcus and Will become unlikely friends and allies, stumbling their way through a first friendship for both of them as they try to make sense out of their complicated lives. This film shines a light on the hope that remains even in the most dire of times and reminds us of the importance of love, trust and friendship, even when those aren't the most comfortable things in the world.

Note: The music in the trailer, while one of my favorite songs, does not appear in the movie. Soundtrack music is entirely provided by Badly Drawn Boy, theme song here:

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