By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated November 09, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

What could possibly be more fabulous than fame? The world at your feet, servants at your beck and call, stalkers at your door. Okay, so the last one isn’t exactly a perk, but it’s a small price to pay for being, oh, Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant, right?

Notting Hill, starring these two spectacular beings in all their toothy, dimpled glory, suggests otherwise. The film, which has been brought to you by the producers and writer of ”Four Weddings and a Funeral,” is dressed up as a romantic comedy, but it’s actually a biting — and occasionally brilliant — look at celebrities and the people who love them.

You can guess the story line from the box cover and the credits: No way did Hollywood pay these two millions so that they could hate each other at the end of the celluloid day. If Roberts and Grant can’t work it out on screen, there’s certainly no hope for the rest of us. So relax, sit back, and ignore the plot — not a difficult task, since an episode of ”Friends” can be more difficult to follow. What IS worth paying attention to is the actors’ gleeful mocking of their own personas.

Roberts plays Anna Scott, an American movie star who seems to have quite a bit in common with Julia Roberts, down to the $15 million-a-pop paycheck. When Anna wanders into a travel bookstore owned by William Thacker (Grant) in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, sparks fly between the princess and the pauper, the superstar and the commoner, the American and the Brit. How far out of Anna’s world does William orbit? He thinks Leonardo DiCaprio is an Italian director.

There are, alas, some bumps in ”Notting Hill,” and they become all the more apparent when Roberts’ grin isn’t big-screen wide. Her Anna flirts with being too badly behaved, and Grant’s incessant blinking and Stooge-like silliness can wear. But the actors are so willing to poke fun at themselves, it would be small-minded not to join in the game.

Notting Hill

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Roger Michell