Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Notting Hill (1999) and Maid in Manhattan (2002)

If it’s Tuesday, it’s Overlooked/Forgotten Films and Television over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom. Don't forget to check out the other fascinating reviews over there.

There’s something quite charming about movies where the hero and heroine, in typical Bollywood fashion, profess their love for each other in a public place and in broad daylight, usually towards the fag end of the film.

In Hindi films, for instance, it’s not uncommon to see the lovebirds—one of whom is always rich and the other always poor—declare their undying love (sic) for one another smack in the middle of a robust family reunion. Most Bollywood films end this way, on an unusually ecstatic note.

I can think of at least two English romantic comedies that have tried the formula with reasonable success—Notting Hill (1999) and Maid in Manhattan (2002). The difference is that Hollywood does it with finesse, though, in recent years Bollywood has been fine-tuning its final mushy scenes.

Anna Scott (Julia Roberts): Can I stay for a while?
William Thacker (Hugh Grant): You can stay forever.

In Notting Hill, local bookstore owner William Thacker (Hugh Grant) is in love with the rich and beautiful movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) but he can’t come to terms with her fame or accept her entreaties to love her because, “I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are; my mother has trouble remembering my name.”

After much soul-searching with his oddball friends, William realises he’s made a terrible mistake and, helped by his buddies, rushes off to the hotel where dream girl Anna is giving her last press conference before flying back to America.

William, who claims he represents Horse and Hound, edges his way past the paparazzi and shutterbugs and stands before Anna. Here’s what happens, courtesy IMDb.

P.R. chief: Next question? Yes. You in the pink shirt (referring to William).
William: Uh, right. Miss Scott, are there any circumstances that you and he might be more than just friends.
Anna Scott: I hoped that there would be but I've been assured that there's not.
William: Yes, but what if...
P.R. Chief: I'm sorry. Just the one question.
Anna Scott: No. It's alright. You were saying?
William: I was just wondering what if this person...
Journalist: Thacker. His name is Thacker.
William: Right. Thanks. What if, uh, Mr. Thacker realised that he had been a daft prick and got down on his knees and begged you to reconsider if you would...indeed...reconsider.
Anna Scott: Yes. I believe I would.
William: That's wonderful news. The readers of Horse and Hound will be relieved.

Director Roger Michell not only gets William to reciprocate Anna's love for him, in public, he also does it with some fine humour. Imagine Horse and Hound!

Maid in Manhattan, directed by Wayne Wang, also ends with a press conference in a hotel foyer, where a young boy Ty Ventura (Tyler Posey) stands among journalists and asks the rich and famous Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), who is standing for senate, why his mother and hotel maid Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez) should not be given a second chance, the result of a misunderstanding between the much-in-love Chris and Marisa. 

Jerry Siegel (Stanley Tucci), who manages the prospective senator’s public image, is aghast and quite helpless as Ty leads Chris through the hotel, past the kitchen staff, and to his mother’s room with the paparazzi and shutterbugs desperately in tow.

Chris: Can we start over? Second chance, second date? You as you, me as me. No secrets. What do you think?

The Bollywood formula of boy-meets-girl in public (or vice versa) and all’s well that ends and that kind of thing worked well in both these Hollywood rom-coms.


  1. Fascinating to compare the formula with the Bollywood equivalent. I'm not crazy about eother of these though they are undeniably fun (did you know MAID was based on a story by John Hughes but appeared under him Cunt of Monte cristo pseudonym of 'Edmond dantes') - in most Romantic Hollywood comedies there public and embarassing declaration of love now seems to always be preceded by some sort of race or chase at the end - I think it first started with the ending of MANHATTAN, Woody Allen's classic comedy, and then took off in the very Allen-style WHEN HARRY MET SALLY.

    1. Sergio, in Bollywood films nearly every reunion between a hero and his girl happens in public, literally. I liked both these movies though I'd rate NOTTING HILL several notches higher than MAID IN MANHATTAN. It has some great humour and one liners. I didn't know the other film was based on a story by John Hughes under the pseudonym of Edmond Dantes. I need to see both MANHATTAN and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY again to relive the time-tested formula, as I don't remember the ending of either of the films. Thanks for mentioning them, Sergio.

  2. Julia Roberts was cute when she was younger but she doesn't do much for me anymore. I've always rather liked Hugh Grant, though, even if he plays something of the same character in every movie.

    1. Charles, I don't like Roberts in some of her films though she was quite good in the two rom-coms NOTTING HILL and AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS. I agree, Grant plays the same character in most of his films including MUSIC AND LYRICS opposite Drew Barrymore. It had some good music, though.

  3. Sergio, screwball comedies have been doing that sort of thing for decades going on a century...

    1. Todd, no question, ending with a chase and a wedding is not new (PALM BEACH STORY would have to be my favourite), but it suddenly struck me that the romcom genre seemed to have become very rigidly codified of late, especially after MANHATTAN and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY - I think you and I may have longer memories than most ...

    2. I enjoy watching screwball comedies even if they often don't make sense. Besides, you don't have to concentrate and it's a bit like slapstick.

  4. For screwball comedies, the first to pop into mind is IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. I believe there are at least 2 public proposals in LOVE, ACTUALLY -- Hugh Grant (again) proposing to my favorite member of the cast of EASTENDERS, Martine McCutcheon. And Colin Firth, in an Italian restaurant. The kid also runs after a girl boarding a plane at Heathrow.

    Funny coincidence, today there was an item on the TV news here about an agency in Indian that helps young people who have fallen in love across caste lines.

    NOTTINGHILL is wonderfully written and cast, btw. I don't think I've ever seen more than parts of it on TV, but I've enjoyed them.

    1. Ron, I remember watching IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT on TCM a few months ago. I'd almost forgotten Clark Gable's role as a reporter in this film. And I think I have seen LOVE ACTUALLY, too; it's telecast quite regularly on cable TV. I think it begins with Bill Nighy "singing" LOVE IS ALL AROUND by Wet Wet Wet. A good star cast overall and a few love scenes too.

      There are plenty of matrimonial agencies that bring prospective brides and bridegrooms together and one that cuts across caste lines is not unusual. There are progressive communities in India that are open to the idea of marrying into different castes. A positive sign. In fact, these agencies hold "melas" (fairs) where bachelors and spinsters are brought together and even married on the spot under one huge canopy.

      I watch parts of NOTTING HILL every now and then, mostly for the humour and the Grant character's crazy bunch of friends.

  5. I love NOTTING HILL, it's one of my favorites though I always get the feeling that Hugh Grant's friends in the pix are purposely eccentric rather than genuinely - if you know what I mean.

    Still, I LOVE THE ENDING!! I'm a big Hugh Grant fan.

    Reading your post makes me want to see this again.

    MAID IN MANHATTAN I wasn't so crazy about. Ralph Fiennes as a modern day dashing romantic doesn't quite cut it for me. He looks ill at ease to me.

    But I like your comparison with Bollywood, Prashant. I've only ever seen two Bollywood films and found them very enjoyable if slightly unbelievable. :)

    1. Thanks for your appreciation, Yvette. I like NOTTING HILL and similar feel-good movies like MUSIC AND LYRICS. I thought Hugh Grant acted well and better than Julia Roberts though, as Charles pointed out, Grant has been stereotyped in most of his films. You're right, his friends in this film were intentionally crazy and eccentric, especially his sister's blonde boyfriend who reveals Anna Scott's hideout. The dialogues in the final scene, as quoted above, were done well and Grant's boy-next-door character carried it off well too.

      MAID IN MANHATTAN wasn't funny but it was nice to see Lord Voldemort play the dignified lover, though he was pretty scary in SCHINDLER'S LIST.

      Yvette, there are some very good Bollywood films with similar endings, "enjoyable if slightly unbelievable." Never take a Bollywood romantic drama seriously, if you know what I mean—they seldom make sense even now.