Today, I point out a bit of a problem I have with the ending of Notting Hill.
This is Disgrace Distract and Bother Me, a feature where I just point out minor things that annoy me in pop culture. Basically, think of it like the lowest level of criticism, then Remember to Forget is the middle, where it’s like, “Okay, this is bad, but not, like, offensively bad” and finally, Things That Turned Out Bad is for, “This is seriously messed up.”
Now, as you all know, I think people who do “actually, the star of Film X was really the villain” takes are, if not occasionally amusing, generally terrible as actual commentary. Similarly, then, stuff that attacks Julia Roberts’ Anna Scott in Notting Hill, I think are highly flawed. She is clearly not a bad person in the film.
However, I do have a bit of a problem with how the film handles William and Anna’s reunion at the end of the film.
Now, in case you’ve forgotten the plot of the hit 1999 film starring Hugh Grant as an English book store owner who falls in love with a famous movie star, the concept is that they get together, but it turns out she didn’t tell him that’s technically still dating some actor guy. So they don’t see each other for a while, but then she comes to him distraught after some naked photos she posed for when she was young hit the tabloids. She hides out at his place, and they really bond. They also have sex for the first time. Will’s roommate, though, inadvertently tips off the paparazzi, and Anna blames Will and treats him like shit as she leaves. Roughly a year later, he hears she is town filming a new movie, and he goes to visit her. She asks him to wait until a scene is over, and he overhears her insulting him to one of her co-stars. So he leaves.
She visits him at his store, and explains that she didn’t know how to contact him since she left him after they slept together, since she had behaved so badly. She also quickly dismisses what she told the co-star, because she had to lie to him, since he’s a big gossip. She then asks him if he is willing to get back together with her. This is the famous “The fame thing isn’t really real, you know. Don’t forget — I’m also just a girl. Standing in front of a boy. Asking him to love her.” scene.
Will turns her down, telling her that, in effect, he’s too worried he’ll just be hurt AGAIN by her.
Okay, so here’s the thing – I think BOTH OF THEM ARE TOTALLY FINE HERE. She apologized for mistreating him, but her mistreatment of him came during a very stressful time, most people would easily get over that if the other person apologized. So all of the “Eff Anna Scott” people are being absurd. She made a mistake and she owned up to it. I have no problem with Anna Scott.
However, what WILLIAM says here is ALSO fine. It is not a BAD THING BY HIM. It is not even a STUPID thing by him. He was hurt by her twice, he doesn’t think he can handle a third time. That’s totally fine! After she leaves, though, his friends tell him he was a moron, and so Will races to her hotel, where she is doing a final press conference before returning to the United States. In a callback to earlier in the movie, where Will impersonates a journalist, he once again impersonates a journalist to ask her (following an earlier question about him, while no one knows he is, well, you know, the guy they’re talking about) whether she could see a relationship with him. She says, “I hoped there might be — but no, I’m assured there aren’t.”
Okay, so right there, she is basically saying, “I hoped so, but you shot me down,” so, you know, JUST ASK HER OUT.
Instead, Will says, “I just wondered if Mr. Thacker realized he’d been a daft prick and got down on his knees and begged you to reconsider, whether you would…reconsider.” She says she would, and, well, they end up together.
The whole thing works very well, except, well, as I noted, what is Will apologizing for? Why is Will groveling? He had a very reasonable reason for turning her down. He’s just as reasonable to have changed his mind and want to be with her, but he’s not a “daft prick” for any of it, and obviously, the way the scene is framed, we’re clearly meant to believe he IS, and I don’t think it works. Especially since the main argument for WHY he is a “daft prick” is because Anna is a movie star, and how could he turn down a movie star? Which is the entire reason he questioned if the relationship could WORK! I mean, perhaps, “Sorry I hurt your feelings by turning you down at first,” but not begging and groveling for her to reconsider! It’s not cool.
I think the movie is still a good movie and, again, the “Eff Anna Scott” stuff is a ridiculous contrarian hot take, but I also think Will gets too much of a raw deal in his depiction in that sequence.
Feel free to e-mail me at my all-new, much shorter e-mail address, email@example.com, for suggestions for pet peeves of your own. They might match mine, and I’ll run them!