Content Warning: The most recent treasonous and seditious former U.S. President makes a cameo at about 1:09:54. Jumping forward 20 seconds will spare you.
I had this idea to do a sporadic series called “From the Vault” where I’d rewatch and review movies from yesteryear. I mean, let’s be honest, I would rewatch and review mostly rom-coms with a light sprinkling of other genres. Anyway, this seemed like a brilliant plan until I started to watch Two Weeks Notice and realized that it came out nineteen years ago. Nineteen! Oh, the indignity! Okay, yes, I understand how the passage of time works, but for the love of declining collagen, that’s a lot of years. Not to worry, I am undaunted in my quest. And, now that I’ve pulled myself together from the initial shock, I hereby promise not to shout at you about the ephemeral nature of time every time I pull a movie out of the vault.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that, nearly two decades later, Two Weeks Notice still holds up pretty well. You never know how that will go with a rom-com from previous eras. (see: Sixteen Candles, for example, which will always have a special place in my heart, but holy shit is it wildly problematic to rewatch.)
In Two Weeks Notice, Sandra Bullock is a Harvard-educated (of course) lawyer who wears Birkenstocks, peasant skirts, flowy shirts, and her heart on her sleeve. She’s got a boyfriend who is in Greenpeace, activist parents, and a whole lot of plans to protect city landmarks from destruction by greedy corporations. Hugh Grant, on the other hand, is…well, pretty much every Hugh Grant character from this era. He’s an ultra-wealthy playboy who hires attractive female lawyers from no-name law schools because he wants to flirt and sleep with them. He cares about having sex, keeping his money, and not having to do too much work or thinking. How in the world will these two kids ever collide?
Well, first, Hugh Grant’s brother insists he hire an actually capable lawyer from some place like Harvard or Yale because, as we all know, those are the only lawyers that count. Second, Sandra Bullock finds out that Hugh Grant’s company is going to knock down her beloved neighborhood community center, and she decides to personally convince him to let it stand. You know what’s going to happen, right? He’s going to convince her to work for him by promising to save the community center, and she’s going to agree because she’s a sucker for lost causes and then they’re going to banter and fight a lot as they unwittingly fall in love. All of which is exactly what one wants in a rom-com!
On her first day, when Sandra Bullock is trying to ask Hugh Grant about important things, he insists that she give him her opinion about which kind of stationery he should get, and, after making a speech about deforestation, she chooses one based on the flavor of the envelope glue. Hugh Grant is blown away by her unique perspective and finds that he needs to call her at all hours of the day to get her opinion on everything from what tie to wear to whether he should sleep with a woman. From there you can guess the direction things will take. Sandra Bullock will eventually get fed up and quit, but stay long enough to find a replacement, by which point love will start to blossom. Then, Hugh Grant will fuck things up, Hugh Grant will have an epiphany, and love will blossom again. The end.
Look, it’s more charming than it sounds on paper, mostly because Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant are extremely charming together. And pretty much the entire movie is just a vehicle to watch these two attractive and funny people do bits together, which I’m not at all mad about. I had forgotten how good Sandra Bullock is at slapstick comedy. Like when, dressed in a yellow raincoat and a giant life jacket, she gets tipsy while on Hugh Grant’s fancy yacht (as opposed to all the unfancy yachts) and keeps falling down a spiral staircase. Or, later on the same boat, when she drunkenly explains how good she is at sex, acting out both a twisty pretzel shape and a bobcat attack. Or when she eats too many chili dogs and then they get stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, or when she walks into an office plant. She’s just goofy and unassuming. And, of course, Hugh Grant is Hugh Grant. He’s such a cad that you don’t want to find him appealing, but he’s also so lost, lonely, and blustering that he becomes likeable. And the scene when he sees Sandra Bullock all dressed up and spends several minutes sputtering words? It reminded me why there was a period of peak Hugh Grant rom-coms when we all sailed our swoons upon his sea, so to speak. It’s all totally endearing. I say that even though the current version of myself rolls her eyes at the whole act because I know how dangerous the bumbling man can be in real life. You know who I mean. The guy who is always surprised to learn he wields all the power. He’s bamboozled by sex. He doesn’t mean to sleep with all those women. It just happens. And how was he to know she was underage or it was crossing a line to sleep with an employee he directly supervises? He didn’t! He couldn’t have! He doesn’t pay attention to those things! He just needs some help! He just wants to have fun. He’s just inept so he can’t be held to blame. His cluelessness is his weapon and his defense, and it can be deeply dangerous. But watching Hugh Grant play that role in an early aughts rom-com? Well…Attraction is a complicated beast, eh?
Maybe you’re wondering, But what about the misogyny and the sexism? Good question, friend! (I’m also wondering if I will ever be able to spell misogyny correctly on the first try. Probably not.) I rate both misogyny (ha! I did it!) and sexism present but light (or maybe lite). Sandra Bullock is pretty much the only woman who is intelligent, not trying to sleep with Hugh Grant, or pinch-faced and constantly criticizing everyone. Sandra Bullock’s mother is constantly angry that Sandra Bullock isn’t doing enough or sticking to her ideals enough, whereas Sandra Bullock’s father is much more genial and open-minded. (See above about men getting to be clueless and it being ok.) Sandra Bullock’s best friend, who gets married during the movie, spends time complaining about how she never gets to be alone and yelling at her husband. Hugh Grant’s brother’s wife is just awful, but his brother is also awful, so maybe that one doesn’t count as much? No, I think it still counts. And then there are all the women who just want to bone Hugh Grant. Even the other Harvard educated lawyer is clearly not there for the job, but for the, erm, bedroom deals she hopes to broker with Hugh Grant. Also, it’s a running thing about how much food Sandra Bullock eats and how she always gives in to wanting a cookie, which feels like a reference to her not “being that kind of woman.” You know, the kind who only eats salads so she doesn’t gain weight because she’s been told her entire life that to be attractive she must look a very certain way no matter what. Those kinds of women are such a bore and men much prefer women who are happy to eat a lot—just as long as they don’t gain any weight. And then there is the whole part where Sandra Bullock gets jealous and ends up fighting another woman over Hugh Grant, about which he is—you guessed it—befuddled. The cast is also glaringly white with the exception of four roles that exist mostly for the benefit or comic relief of the white characters. And, this being the early 2000s, of course, there is a “joke” about same sex attraction. Why did anyone think those kinds of comments were helpful or inclusive or funny?
But, all things being equal, it could be much worse for a rom-com movie of this vintage. I realize that’s a little vague, but I’m trying out this whole bumbling and confused thing that men have cornered the market on. Ha! No! I would never! I’m saying that this movie, thanks in large part to enduring charm of Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, is still enjoyable to watch, and you won’t get sucker punched by too many misogynistic, homophobic, or racist tropes. So, on a day when you need something well-worn and comfortable to watch (that might also elicit nostalgic feelings about corded landline phones), it wouldn’t be a bad idea to dust the cobwebs off this one and stream it.