No, it’s not high art. No, it’s nowhere near the same league as other films opening this week.
But it’s a perfect complement to them.
I’m glad I saw The Two Towers, Far from Heaven and Gangs of New York first. Viewed in that manner, Two Weeks Notice assumes its rightful place as a pleasant dessert after the main course — and a splendid dessert it is.
I went into the film knowing exactly what to expect — a romantic comedy custom-designed for its stars. If you like this kind of thing when it’s done well, this is as good an example as you’re likely to get. Both Grant and Bullock did better — or at least more courageous — work this year in About a Boy and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, respectively, but those were both more ambitious and quirkier works.
This is a star vehicle, pure and simple. Its plot is romantic comedy at its most basic: Grant is a billionaire playboy real-estate developer with the bad habit of choosing his legal counsel based entirely on feminine charms and the probability of his counsel’s willingness to become horizontal without too much trouble (“Have you ever heard of the University of St. Tropez?” he asks a prospective lawyer).
Bullock is a high-profile political activist best known for trying to block his company’s real-estate-development schemes. When they first meet, she mistakes his interest in her for a come-on. When she finds out he wants to hire her, she declares she’d rather have sex with him than work for him. Of course, she goes to work for him anyway — as part of a deal to save a historical community center on Coney Island.
What neither predict is the impact a pretty and smart woman will have on him. From the moment she’s able to decide which of two nearly identical envelopes he should buy for his stationery (she opts for the one with the better-tasting glue), he’s hooked, becoming ever-more-reliant on her to make his judgments for him.
When he calls her out of a wedding for an “emergency” (he needs her to pick a suit for him to wear on TV), she decides she’s had enough and hands in her titular notice. And … well, apart from the minor specifics, I’ve told you nothing you wouldn’t know before you walked into the theater.
It’s all familiar territory, but it’s a pleasure to note that first-time director Marc Lawrence (who wrote Miss Congeniality) has crafted a screenplay with more than its share of truly funny lines — none more substantial than meringue, mind you, but they’re about that tasty while you’re hearing them expertly delivered.
Sure, the whole thing’s geared toward allowing the stars to do the things they’re best known for. Grant gets to display his famous charm. Bullock gets to show off her knack for over-the-top physical comedy in a truly hysterical scene where she tries to “attack” her replacement (Alicia Witt). There’s an inherent danger in this, since it runs the risk of being too easy and too familiar, but it succeeds because the writing is bright and clever and the stars are who they are. Grant, in fact, isn’t quite doing his Boobus Britannicus schtick this round. His character is more outrageous and less tongue-tied than is often the case — and that’s refreshing. The film does have a few problems, but not enough to seriously harm the delightful confection being laid out for us.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke