December 20, 2002 | This week’s
Truth in Advertising award goes to Two Weeks Notice, an exceptionally
engaging romantic comedy that is being sold with an attractive rendering
of Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant as classically incandescent movie
stars. The ad artwork promises nothing more – but, on the other hand, nothing less – than
a couple of entertaining hours in the company of two charismatic lead
players as they do precisely what they’re expected to do in a movie
of this sort. I’m happy to offer this consumer report: The movie
more than makes good on that promise.
This is an old-fashioned, frankly formulaic star vehicle built for two,
and it brings out the best, or at least the most appealing, in its pampered
Grant is perfectly typecast as George Wade,
a cheerfully feckless millionaire who cracks wise with deadpan aplomb – “I thought she was
going to kill me,” he says of a disapproving social activist, “and
then feed me to the poor!” – while serving as the photogenic
spokesperson for his family’s Manhattan-based real estate development
firm. (His stodgy brother is – no surprise! -- the real brains
of the outfit.) And Bullock is equally comfortable in the role of Lucy
Kelson, a Harvard-educated attorney and environmentalist who is too obsessed
with her work to ever find Mr. Right.
These opposites start to attract when writer-director
Marc Lawrence has them “meet cute” just outside the front door of Wade
Corporation headquarters. George needs a new attorney and personal assistant.
Usually, he selects beautiful women (and potential bedmates) with dubious
legal credentials for this high-paying position. In order to placate
his brother, however, George opts to break with tradition and hire someone
more qualified. Someone a lot like Lucy, who wants George to refrain
from razing a community center in her old Coney Island neighborhood.
George agrees to preserve the landmark building – if she agrees
to work for him as his right-hand person.
Unfortunately, Lucy quickly learns that
the job requires 24/7 attentiveness, and entails providing fashion
tips and office-supply advice to the chronically indecisive George.
Even more unfortunately, her ironclad contract prevents her from quitting.
One thing leads to another – predictably, yet
pleasantly – and, eventually, their business relationship evolves
into something warmer.
If you enjoyed the sexy-and-scrappy verve Bullock displayed in Miss
Congeniality (another Marc Lawrence script), you’ll likely
enjoy her similarly appealing performance here. (She has a drunk scene
guaranteed to make her fans – and, yes, I count myself among
that group – fall in love with her all over again.). Grant also
falls back on familiar tricks, transforming ordinary dialogue into
witty bon mots with meticulously timed pauses and inflections. Better
still, he smartly undercuts his character’s carefree demeanor
with just a hint of melancholy, much as he did in About a Boy.
To be sure, Grant is capable of more sobersided
acting – he’s
quite good in Michael Apted’s Extreme Measures, a seriously
thrilling 1996 melodrama that didn’t find an audience until it
reached cable television – but that isn’t what this movie
calls for. Likewise, Bullock can easily play against her image as a brainy-but-klutzy
beauty, as she did to great effect in Bronwen Hughes’ under-appreciated
and widely misunderstood Forces of Nature (also written by Lawrence),
another movie that relatively few people purchased tickets to see.
But Two Weeks Notice allows both actors to play to their perceived
strengths. Or, to put it another way, the stars do here what, apparently,
most people are most interested in seeing them do. See what I mean about
truth in advertising? Short of re-titling the movie Sandra and Hugh
Make Nice, there’s nothing else the ad planners could have
done to be more up-front about their product.