No. 239 - Two Weeks Notice (2002).

I first watched Two Weeks Notice almost eighteen years after the film's initial release in 2002. The film stars Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock, and was actually produced by Bullock. The screenplay is by Marc Lawrence, who also wrote Music and Lyrics (2007), and who also graduated from NYU'S School of Law.

Grant plays George Wade, a billionaire who appears to actually have a law degree, but more importantly, is one half of a corporate empire that ––– amongst other functions, purchases and develops commercial and residential real estate, including hotels in New York, NY, where the film is set, and where the film was actually ––– filmed.

Wade's foe is Lucy Kelson (Bullock), a Harvard Law graduate and environmentalist attorney who, before working with Wade, spent most of her career in and around legal aid circles. She grew up in Brooklyn (by way of Coney Island), and although we don't know where George is from (save that his family owns several properties in and throughout Manhattan), it's easy to gather that he and Lucy's careers paths are as equally misaligned as their histories.

Every strong romantic comedy carries with it these two elements, the more forceful and consistent these elements, the better the film: charm and tension. In fact they're two sides of the same coin, with both being needed just as much as the other. Without charm, it's impossible to create tension. And without tension, the charm grows quite tedious ––– and fast.

These are the three elements of charm as I understand them: (1) A character's competence or prowess at his or her or their job; (2) A character's backbone, or said otherwise his or her or their ability to stand up for something and to stand their ground; and the most difficult element to trace (because it is dependent on the other two) (3) A character's sense of humor, and wit.

The core of Two Weeks Notice's strength rests within the fact that both Lucy and George excel in each of these three three elements.

For Lucy:

(1) We know that she's good at her job because we're told that she's a Harvard Law grad, and moreover, within the film's first few minutes, Lucy is climbing onto a wrecking ball in order to stop the destruction of a historical landmark –––– and then to drive home the point, Lucy and two of her friends, layout mats and begin lying beneath that same wrecking ball, determined.

(2) Lucy's backbone is the same thing that makes her good at what she does. She believes in the importance of creating and maintaining communities, and she has allowed that passion to direct her career and her life, which at this point are wholly intertwined.

(3) Her wit is displayed the most each time she meets George's quips, or perhaps more accurately, each time she invites George to rise to her level ––– and more often than not, he does not disappoint.

For George:

(1) Although it's less obvious that he's good at what he does, within the film's first few breaths we do see him at least looking successful: giving a speech in front of many well-dressed and seemingly influential women and men; and appearing on the cover of not one but two magazines ––– wherein he's presented as a real estate mogul and business tycoon. One of the covers, in fact, is GQ, which names him their man of the year, presumably for 2002.

(2) Whether he has a backbone or not is presented as one of the central questions of the film. This is also how we see his character develop, which is one way that the film creates tension.

(3) Wade is played by Hugh Grant, who became a star because of his wit.

As for the other critical element, tension, once the characters' individual as well as collective charm is established, tension is developed as they fight against themselves, and also, as they fight against the growing attraction that's developing between them.

George's fight against himself is an internal knowing that he caves too often, that he's not actually living and standing within any real sort of power (he knows that he shouldn't be asking Lucy which tie, which shoes, or which bed he should buy); however, he doesn't know how to make this change, and to separate his persona as Mr. George Wade, from who he actually is, and how to get what he actually wants: love, connection, and a backbone.

Lucy's fight against herself is a growing suspicion that the men who have walked out of her life may have not done so voluntarily, but may have been pushed out of her life by her own failure to allow them into her heart. Though in her defense, we do not actually see on screen, or even hear all that much about these other men.

There is a scene on a yacht that's problematic for reasons that I won't disclose here, though I will say: Lucy for some reason is wearing a seemingly kid's sized and quite colorful life jacket, while George is Oxford cool in his tennis shorts and navy sweater. And there is one other real estate imposter turned president who does make a cameo, which dulls the film's appeal, but only slightly.

As for the fight against the growing attraction that they feel for each other; once Lawrence's script creates enough charm and growth within Lucy and George, the attraction, as well as their collective fight against it, almost arrives without effort. Which is to say, like love, it happens naturally.

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