This roundup does not include Grant’s early period films.
Four Weddings and a Funeral 1994 Directed by Mike Newell. A lighthearted charmer about the five events within a tight knit group of friends pairing up outside the circle. Andie MacDowell plays Carrie, the elusive great love of tongue-tied Charles’ life (Hugh Grant). A wonderful ensemble includes, in part: James Fleet, Simon Callow, John Hannah, Kristen Scott Thomas, David Bower, Charlotte Coleman, Rowan Atkinson and Corin Redgrave.
The film was made in six weeks, cost under £3 million, and unexpectedly became a worldwide success. Screenwriter Richard Curtis began writing the script at age 34, after realizing he had attended 65 weddings in an 11-year period. Every attempt was made to make Hugh Grant look more “nerdy.” Rent on Amazon Prime.
Notting Hill 1999 Directed by Roger Michell. Also a charmer. It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Julia Roberts (with her thousand-watt smile) playing the heroine. The filmmakers also felt this way. Mild mannered Will Thacker (Hugh Grant), whose wife left him, owns a travel bookshop and shares a row house in Notting Hill with extremely quirky boarder, Spike (Rhys Ifans- terrific). One day, American megastar Anna Scott (Roberts) waltzes in. Their exchange is wry without pandering. Later, he spills a drink on her in the street and offers his house as a place to clean up.
Needless to say, they come together, are pulled apart, misunderstand one another, worry about their two disparate lives, and come together at the end. Only the trajectory is formulaic. In an interview with GQ in 2018, Grant claimed the film was loosely based on a friend of screenwriter Richard Curtis who fell in love with an “extremely world-famous person who [Grant wasn’t] allowed to mention.” Curtis lived in Notting Hill. Rent on Amazon Prime.
About a Boy 2002 An adaptation of the novel by Nick Hornby. Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz. Romantic dramady, sweet, not saccharine. Thanks to his deceased songwriter father, Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) lives comfortably free of responsibility on royalties. In order to meet women, he begins attending a single parent support group masquerading as father of two-year old Ned – ostensibly elsewhere.
On a park date with Suzie, one of the women he’s met, he encounters Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), the lonely teenage son of Suzie’s friend, Fiona (Toni Collette). Suzie and Will take Marcus home to find Fiona has attempted suicide. Shortly thereafter Marcus shows up at Will’s door unannounced and in deep need of male influence. He threatens to tell Will’s dates that the bachelor has no children. In exchange, he regularly “hangs out” with the older man who unwittingly gets involved in the boy’s life, learning something about responsibility. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Florence Foster Jenkins 2016 Directed by Stephen Frears. Based on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, an heiress known for generosity and dreadful, broadly mocked opera singing. Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep – wonderful) is “managed” by longtime companion, Shakespearean actor, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant). Because she suffers from long term syphilis, she lives in a hotel suite, Bayfield with his mistress.
Pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg – priceless expressions), hired for vocal sessions, is appalled by her lack of talent, while Bayfield and Jenkins’ coach, Carlo Edwards (David Haig) cheer her on, each for his own reason.
Jenkins books Carnegie Hall for a concert giving away 1000 tickets to soldiers. Bayfield can’t talk her out of it. An audience filled with celebrities applauds while servicemen jeer. Bayfield hides scathing reviews, but the heroine finds out and falls ill. Many layered and very sympathetic. Fine acting. Watching videos of the real Foster Jenkins, Frears said, “You’re laughing and she touches you. It’s inherently ridiculous and courageous at the same time.” Meryl Streep worked with a vocal coach in order to sing badly. Rent on Amazon Prime.
A Very English Scandal 2018 A miniseries based on Jeremy Thorpe’s 2016 book about the political sex scandal that ended his career. Directed by Stephen Frears. On the basis of saved love letters, former stable boy Norman Jossife (Ben Wishaw) attempts to blackmail liberal Member of Parliament, Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant). Norman calls Thorpe’s wife, who’s devastated. Some money is paid through a fellow MP. When his first wife dies, Thorpe marries a countess and continues to rise politically. Years later, Norman again appears on the scene. Thorpe hires an (unsuccessful) assassin. Everything comes to public light.
Rotten Tomatoes called this “an equally absorbing and appalling look at British politics and society.” Free on Amazon Prime.
The Undoing 2020 Series based on the 2014 novel, You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Written and Produced by David E. Kelly. A psychological thriller. Grace and Jonathan Fraser (Nicolle Kidman and Hugh Grant) are respectively a psychologist and oncologist, both extremely successful. Their precocious son, Henry (Noah Jupe), is at an exclusive private school. Grace’s father (Donald Sutherland) is a multi-millionaire businessman. Their upper class lives are featured in newspapers and magazines. The Frasers are liberal, charitable, and, for all intents and purposes, happy.
Suddenly Jonathan disappears, lying about his whereabouts, leaving his phone in a drawer at home. Artist Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis), the mother of a school scholarship boy, is brutally murdered in her studio. (Grace has had her own peripheral, slightly strange interactions with Elena.) Every indication points to Grace’s husband who has gone on the lam. When Jonathan is caught, he admits an affair with Alves, driving a wedge into the high profile family.
Against advice, despite doubting and even being frightened of Jonathan, Grace convinces her father to pay exorbitant bail and hire a top lawyer. She also agrees to stay at her husband’s side. Elena’s husband, Fernando (Ismael Cruz Cordova), appears equally guilty for a time as do both Grace and Henry. Free at HBO on Prime Video or buy.
Top photo: Shutterstock