As you may have gathered by now, we at GWW have lost A LOT of hours watching movies, shows, and everything in between. For me, at least, an embarrassing amount of those hours have been lost to a certain foppish Brit. He’s been the slimy villain and the charming lover, the fading star and stagnant loser, but he has always been Freakin’ Hugh Grant, unable to earn my hatred.
Notting Hill, unstoppable romcom titan, is often noted as a high point for Julia Roberts in terms of her being an American goddess, but without Grant’s support it could not have risen into its genre’s pantheon. Roberts was sort of playing herself, but Grant got to be adorable and disconnected from pop culture, somehow convincing us that he didn’t know who Leonardo DiCaprio was. Julia gets the line you’ve heard a million times, but Hugh gets to be as British as you can imagine, thriving with Richard Curtis’ sharp script. He’s endlessly self-effacing and relentlessly unhip, his smiles turning into grimaces instantaneously when he realizes he let the love of his life get away. To be succinct, I love Notting Hill and pretty much everything about it, not just Rhys Ifans. Moving on!
About a Boy wasn’t quite the worldwide megasmash that Notting Hill was, but Hugh faced a tougher task — trying to win me over while playing a shallow, immature manboy. Nick Hornby’s books have been turned into several entertaining movies, and this one boasts an inventive story, along with the horrifically haircutted Nicholas Hoult. Amidst some dark subplots and adversities, the story of Grant’s Will and Hoult’s Marcus is quite unusual and creative, and of course uplifting. Will starts out timid and shallow and terrible with kids, but by the end of the movie he’s making a little bit of a fool of himself, all so Marcus can feel loved and strong and dignified. As a bonus, some benign duck murder takes place, and we constantly see Will trying to convince himself his empty life has value, all the while anxiously awaiting his realization that he needs other people to be happy. Grant plays shallow well, but he plays newly thoughtful even better. Plus, can’t you just imagine Hoult breaking it down for Jennifer Lawrence?
Then, of course, there’s Love Actually, a film with a solid chance of being crowned victor in GWW’s inevitable romcom super tournament. Grant is only one part of the immaculate ensemble, but his unrealistically handsome Prime Minister has some of the best moments in the film. His overwhelming affection for Martine McCutcheon’s Natalie produces one of the greatest solo dance sequences in movie history (which may have inspired casting directors to pick him for the next paragraph’s film), along with a strong response to the POTUS (albeit the worst President of all time, Billy Bob Thornton). Just about every storyline in this movie warms my heart, but Grant once again proves capable of pulling off the “man disconnected from society learning how to connect and love” character in perfect form. Also, I just need that dance and speech and his devotion to Natalie for now, until Keira Knightley’s Juliet realizes her mistake and chooses the right man.
Sorry, just give me a second. That last link still has me sobbing uncontrollably into my pillow adorned with Colin Firth’s face.
Music and Lyrics may have the least esteem of any of these films, but it is quite entertaining and contains Grant in peak Grant form. The movie will never reach my romcom short list like Notting Hill and Love Actually, partially because I can’t bring myself to enjoy Drew Barrymore, but THIS cannot be denied as arguably the high point in Grant’s illustrious career. Director and screenwriter Marc Lawrence clearly had fun lampooning Grant and various parts of the music industry, and the script is almost as catchy as the music. Really, the music is truly and genuinely catchy. Alex Fletcher is a caricature of ’80s pop stars but also of Grant, parodying his boyish charm and fading sex appeal, though that appeal does come forward at times. Though the movie will never quite be the same as the other three, Grant’s performance contains the same goofy charm, putting us in danger of losing hours to the film. It doesn’t take much.
We didn’t even get to Four Weddings and a Funeral, Two Weeks Notice, and many other Grant treasures, but for now let us simply acknowledge and embrace the subtle British allure of a man always attractive but usually tasked with feigning vapidity for the sake of cinematic journeys. His career may be winding down, but Grant has left us with more than enough material to fill our lonely hours, our Christmas nights, our lengthy sojourns into the depths of heartwarming movie heaven.