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How Effective is Notting Hill as an "Urban Fairy Tale"?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 3126 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Urban fairy tales is a supernaturalism mirror which reflects aspects of our inner world. For those who infiltrate themselves in what the fairy tale should combine, it becomes natural depression and quite pool which at first seems to reflect only on our own mental representation. Fairy tales consciously fabricate their settings and social environment, allow happenstance and magic to determine events and structure their narrative’s in such a way that the protagonist of the story undergoes a series of mental measurements before achieving his or her goal. In romantic comedies, the real focus is the power of love. Love is not merely the catalyst for action in a romantic comedy, it is the shaper of the story arc. Although many romantic comedies seem to initially set up their protagonist’s eventual mate as their antagonist, in most cases love itself is the antagonist. Wrestling with love can force a character to grow or to resist growth, but either way, love’s effect on the central character is what drives the story. ‘Billy Mernit’. So how do romantic comedies occupy the interest of an audience? All the romantic comedies I have ever seen somehow tries to clarify their version of the “perfect couple”, something the audience should strive to be. The writers of these films twig a man and a woman who are seamlessly perfect for each other. The characters have some force separating the two of them, they may be from different backgrounds, live on opposites sides of the world or one of them may even be already in a relationship. But we all know how a romantic comedy ends! The people who should be together end up together and they live “happily ever after”. No one really watches these movies for the ending as they are so predictable, viewers unquestionably watch these films to see how the relationship blossoms and grows, to feel the warm heart stings pull when the two people finally end up together.

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The 1990’s saw a rise of genres that reached their extremum in contemporary British cinema, of which one is identified as the romantic-comedy. Robert murphy writes his article City life: Urban Fairy-tales in late 90’s British Cinema (2009) that released romantic comedies during this existing period, notably those written by Richard Curtis, underpin a fairy tale structure. Although realism has been a predominant theme of British filmmaking Murphy’s idea of a fairy tale suggests that romantic comedies such as Notting Hill (roger michell,1998) reflect romantic characteristics of everyday life. Murphy assertion that narratives are stylised as a “magical quest” [1] (Robert Murphy, 2009) for goal orientated ideologist who get through a successful conclusion by stop the villain which, has been part of the Hollywood prescription since the 1920’s. This essay will analyse and discuss Notting Hill as an Urban fairy tale regarding Murphy’s theory of fairy-tale narrative styles and British locations serving as an enchanting landscape and urban theme.

The emotion in films is a very meaningful and important aspect to the narrative drive, this is perhaps the key factor that is essential to creating a successful film. Without a plausible and workable storyline, a film will almost definitely lose all hope of generating verisimilitude. An aspect which significantly affects how effective the storyline is in creating the verisimilitude critical to a romantic comedy/urban fairy tale is how sound effects and the sound track to the film is used. There is music to help up the tension in action movies and music which allows us to soften our hearts to heart-breaking yet romantic prince and princess things happening to the characters, which allows to open the vision of believability to a whole new level.

A Characteristic which effect how successful a film is how well the characters are developed and how well they portray their characters. The producers of Notting Hill chose very appropriate actors that represented the characters at a very authentic standard. The actors were well constructed, very thoughtfully, to come across as prince and princess like characters during the films events. However, the prince and princess like characters I thought were not only equally well-constructed. I found that the villains who didn’t necessarily realise that they were being villainous often had the best effect on the viewer and add fairy tale like qualities to the film. I found it more stimulating when there were numerous “villains” involved because otherwise there is little tautness and conflict during the narrative and this often leads to me switching off to the events on screen.

The typical fairy-tale story line is in a linear form which per Murphy “began either with a lack which must be remedied (the absence of an heir, a suitable marriage partner, enough food or land or wealth); a curse which has been removed (a spell cast by a which is disrupted and has to be restored (death or misfortune sends a, sometimes reluctant” [2](Robert Murphy, 2009). British fairy-tale genres tend to be structured chronologically like the Hollywood storylines, they experiment the romantic lives of multiple middle-class people who elaborate different trends of relationships with love serving as the central postulate. Notting hill fits in a straightforward linear conspiracy that have individual hero and villains. Like William and Anna in Notting Hill, shapes romantic boundaries among opposing social classes within a fantastical situation. Notting Hill is structured in more straight-forward narrative that presents its protagonist William Thacker (Hugh Grant), a middle-class bookstore owner who convergence film star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) and progressively begin a relationship. Their happy ever after was forced to a halt as both characters having personal obstacles in their lives, Williams obstacles being recently divorced, and Anna facing famous pressures. Their relationship was an escapism from reality. In the end their obstacles is what reunite them together. This is to celebrate the idea of a union between two well-suited equals, even as its narrative simultaneously formulated a series of events and circumstances capable of keeping the couple apart until the very end. The couple’s first encounter is significant to the urban fairy tale as it takes place in Williams bookstore that features travel books. This is a sense of escapism particularly for Anna from the Hollywood scene, and it is when we first get a sense of their possible happily ever after.

We see very early in the film that Julia Roberts character Anna is a prominent example as she portrayed in the opening scene as this goddess princess, through her Hollywood stardom. Roger Michell uses a number of filmic techniques that portrays Anna as a princess, the use of  voice over within the opening scene boosts her as “Hollywood’s biggest star” alongside the non-diegetic sound ‘SHE’ by Elvis Costello the lyrics especially  represents her natural beauty “she may be the face I can’t forget the trace of pleasure or regret  may be my treasure or the price I have to pay…” this song is playing whilst we are seeing  montage footage of Anna at Hollywood events, with low key lighting and the use of close up’s and extreme close ups make sure the viewers’ attention is always on her. However, it is those Hollywood scenes that prevent her from her happily ever after ending. Anna primarily looks for an escape from her Hollywood lifestyle through her interest in everyday Britain Murphy notes “Anna is lured from the vacuous superficiality of a Hollywood lifestyle by the promise of life in the city of tranquil parks (all the more tranquil for being open only to the rich), street markets she can peruse with only minimal intrusions into her privacy and friendly people who, even when in  awe of her, act in a natural, unsycophantic way.”[3] (Robert Murphy, 2009) Whilst Anna develops her interest in the ordinary lifestyle the travel books shows significance as well as her relationship with an everyday resident. Her relationship with William do battle with social classes, this is recognised in the films tag line “can the most famous film star in the world fall for the man in the street”. Murphy notes “if this cycle of films is remarkable for its evacuation of class conflict and its conservative representation of society, it is less a matter of sympathy switching from the poor and oppressed to the privileged and successful, than of a rapprochement, a papering over the rifts that had opened up between rich and poor, losers and winners in the 1980’s”. [4](Robert Murphy, 2009) 

Richard Curtis use of linear narrative structure was used frequently in the 1930’s in Hollywood romantic-comedies, like it happened one night (Capra, 1934), is vital to reflecting the elegance within contemporary Britain. America’s Universal Pictures distributed Notting Hill, despite its main characters, cast and crew being British, though street states that this represents a traditional strengthening of exclusive notions of Britain. Notting hill works as an urban fairy tale because of the basic narrative structure, most of the success of this film being such a classic rom-com is down to the talents of Richard Curtis, who has a detailed eye for situation comedy. It is a delightful love story that is sometimes foreseeable in the narrative structure however Richard manages to find a persuasive originality. It is the clash of cultures that is wonderfully emphasised during this film such as the scene when William bring Anna to his sister’s dinner party. “William and his friends might be interchangeable with Charles and his friends in terms of character types but they are set lower in the class hierarchy and have none of the glamour and prestige which still attaches to the English aristocracy.”[5] (Robert Murphy, 2009) The impression that Anna seems to have on the regular British people be a symbol for cinema in relation to Hollywood. Like how women are represented, male protagonists are what Murphy describes “sleeping prices and frogs waiting to be kissed.”[6] (Robert Murphy, 2009) They appear attractive and sophisticated, which they are superficially unware of, possess no machismo features of masculinity. Hugh Grant is perhaps the most noticeable star within the romantic-comedy and urban fairy-tale genre not only because he appears in films such as Love Actually, Four Weddings and Bridget Jones but also because of his star status that enhances a prince like status. Grants persona is that of the well up brining Englishman whose off screen behaviour confirms stereotypes about upper-class hypocrisy over sexual matters. In this sense, grant is a typecast actor whose characters are frequently the handsome and well educated individual who represents the amiable males in Britain in relation to Murphy’s idea of a sleeping prince, Notting Hill further discovers William’s personal complications before claiming his reward, Anna specifically admires his unique lifestyle with flatmate Spike (Rhys Ifans), his social life among unproductive friends and most importantly his recovery from his recent divorce and new love determination.

Notting Hill signifies many characteristics of the star lifestyle, red carpet events, press, fans stopping for autographs, being followed by lurid journalists, etc. but the star lifestyle is also shown somewhat undesirably, especially when compared to life in Notting Hill. Realism, or verisimilitude, is largely an important part of film, yet it is hard to believe that a film star would fall in love with a regular person and give up her whole lifestyle to live a low quiet lifestyle in Notting Hill. It is an essential part of genre films as it is usually the credibility elements of a film that lay the practicalities of its pleasure which in turn entices audiences to see the film in the first place. In the case of Notting Hill, the demand is in the wanting. Postponement of disbelief allows the viewer to believe that anything is possible and the film star of their imaginings is within their grasp. It is an apparently realistic lifestyle.

Celebrities are important to culture as they have a foremost control over the representation of people and their films tend to reflect the foremost ideology of western society. Bad press can be such a disaster for both the actor’s careers and whatever films they have due for release. But luckily for Grant, the incident with the prostitute didn’t affect his career too bad, in fact people laugh at the prostitute reference in Notting Hill.

Notting Hill is representative of the genre in terms of narrative contraries attracting, falling in love, dithering apart, living happily ever after, characters near group of friends to pick up when you’re feeling down, another love interest to whichever end the relationship for a short amount of time. British romantic comedies have a tendency to to be set in or near London. Music and soundtracks tend to be popular music from popular artists and use instrumental score to create and build the spectators reaction. Cinematography lean towards close up camera angles on the protagonists faces throughout instants of powerful emotion. It also topographies a reasonably accurate symbol of stardom in the narrative and stars actors who have become iconographic in relations of genre.

When I started this essay my aim was to identify and analyse in depth how effective Notting Hill is to an urban fairy tale and in doing so I hope to have proven that it is very important for the film director and producers to think of all the characterises that go into making this particular genre. I have discussed that the making of a successful urban fairy tale/ romantic comedy means that the cinematography and the use of camera angles is used to reveal emotion, the narrative and the characters need to be built very carefully, the actors must be talented enough to represent the characters well, the music and any effects used must be applicable to the genre and events within the film and that the cultural dissertations and must also be thoughtfully used. I hope to have been successful whilst completing this essay by discussing the key factors that shows Notting Hill as an urban fairy tale. As Notting hill settles with a happy ending or determinations like a traditional fairy-tale story. The linear structure can, in some ways, be foreseeable but the significant aspect of Notting Hill is that it can centre on contemporary issues with Robert Murphy supporting concept of fairy tale Britain increasingly contributing a positive factor. Finally, Notting Hill establishes a spirit of Hollywood within but at the same time it maintains a sense of British independent film making.


https://film essay sand articles. word press.com/ category / romantic-comedy/

http://www.term paper warehouse.com / essay-on / Romance-Movies/ 121294

https://www.megaessays.com / view paper / 98479.html

Murphy, Robert (2009), ‘Citylife: Urban Fairy-tales in Late 90s British Cinema’, in Robert Murphy (ed.), The British Cinema Book: Third Edition (London: BFI), pp.350-7

Higson, Andrew (2011), Film England: Culturally English Filmmaking since the 1990s (London and New York: I.B.Tauris), particularly Chapter 3, pp.67-96

Mather, Nigel (2006), Tears of Laughter: Comedy-Drama in 1990s British Cinema (Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press)

http://www.talking pix.co.uk / Article Notting Hill Genre. html

http://www.teenink . com / opinion / movies _music _tv / article / 171583 / Misleading – Movies – The – Romantic – Comedy /

http://www. Npr . org / sections / monkey see / 2013 / 03 / 06 / 173424536 / are – romantic – comedies – dead

https://en . wikipedia . org / wiki / Notting _Hill _(film)

http://www. Imdb . com / title / tt0125439 /

[1] Robert Murphy . (2009). city life: urban fairy-tales in late 90’s British cinema . In: Robert Murphy THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK. 3rd ed.london: palgrave macmillan. 358.

[2] Robert Murphy . (2009). city life: urban fairy-tales in late 90’s British cinema . In: Robert Murphy THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK. 3rd ed.london: palgrave macmillan. 358

[3] Robert Murphy . (2009). city life: urban fairy-tales in late 90’s British cinema . In: Robert Murphy THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK. 3rd ed.london: palgrave macmillan. 363

[4] Robert Murphy . (2009). city life: urban fairy-tales in late 90’s British cinema . In: Robert Murphy THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK. 3rd ed.london: palgrave macmillan. 364

[5] Robert Murphy . (2009). city life: urban fairy-tales in late 90’s British cinema . In: Robert Murphy THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK. 3rd ed.london: palgrave macmillan. 363

[6] Robert Murphy . (2009). city life: urban fairy-tales in late 90’s British cinema . In: Robert Murphy THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK. 3rd ed.london: palgrave macmillan. 360


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