Two Weeks Notice (December 17/02)
Two Weeks Notice proves that it must be a lot more difficult to create an affable romantic comedy than it would seem. Though the movie stars Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, two extremely personable actors, and contains a high-concept plot that's perfect for this genre, the film just flat-out never works.
Bullock stars as Lucy, a lawyer who supports a variety of environmental and community causes. One day, to prevent a local center from being torn down, she decides to confront the man whose company is responsible for the impending destruction. Coincidentally, George (Grant) is looking for a new lawyer to handle his day-to-day affair, and when Lucy accosts him, George decides that she'd be perfect. After receiving assurances that she'll be able to handle pro bono cases of her choosing, Lucy accepts the job. Time passes, and Lucy discovers that a big chunk of her time is devoted to helping George out with meaningless tasks like dry cleaning. After being pulled away from a wedding to help pick out a suit, Lucy decides she's had enough and offers up her two weeks notice.
Two Weeks Notice makes the same mistake last week's Maid in Manhattan did (though that was a far better film): Instead of focusing mostly on the budding relationship between the two leads, the movie throws in useless subplots and needless distractions when all we really want is to see Grant and Bullock fall in love. When the two finally do kiss at the end of the movie (trust me: NOT a spoiler), we're not really convinced because we haven't been given any real indication that the two are genuinely in love. Like most sitcoms, the basis of Lucy and George's relationship is one of hatred - the two spend a good portion of the film squabbling. But unlike the Sam and Diane storyline from Cheers, George and Lucy don't have a couple of seasons to convince us that they really like each other.
The film also makes the mistake of overloading the plot with unnecessary elements, including the introduction of Lucy's replacement - a beautiful and eager young woman (played by Alicia Witt) that immediately goes after George. The inclusion of this character was presumably meant to be yet another obstacle preventing George and Lucy from getting together, but it's just overkill. The film is full of similar distractions, which is a shame because the first half hour or so is fairly promising. The way that George and Lucy encounter one another for the first time is exactly the sort of "meet cute" (Ebert's phrase, not mine) that's just perfect for a movie like this. But it's all downhill after that.
Considering the hype around the fact that this is the first pairing of Grant and Bullock, Two Weeks Notice is awfully disappointing. But since the two do make for a believable couple, we can only hope that they'll be given the opportunity to make another romantic comedy - one that actually remembers the "romantic" part of the equation.