Julia Roberts playing a famous Hollywood actress putting the moves on a bashful Hugh Grant (as bookish bookstore owner) means art-imitating-life-imitating-Four Weddings and a Funeral. But it does make for a respectable romantic comedy.
Grant's goofy charm comes across smoothly. Much like Four Weddings, the movie gains from equipping him with a strong cast of supporting characters. William Thacker's (Grant) life changes when he accidentally spills orange juice on the blouse of a star browsing in his floundering bookshop. Anna Scott (Roberts) end up seducing William back at his place, and their tumultuous relationship is off, with Anna's presence in the public-eye being one of its primary foes. Julia Roberts' dense star power takes a playfully self-conscious turn here as the unpleasantries of fame receive smart parody.
Unlike most romantic comedies, Notting Hill doesn't underestimate the audience's intelligence and never tries too hard. Jokes are allowed to develop. The world's sugar-coating is allowed to rub thin in points. Even if Grant and Roberts lack dynamic chemistry, the film compensates with competent success in all other areas.