“Two Weeks Notice” comes close to a well executed romantic comedy. It gets more than a few things right including the casting, the screenplay, the classic push & pull tension, respectable sidekicks and ties up all the loose ends successfully.
Sandra Bullock plays Lucy Kelson, a very competent lawyer who is also an environmental activist. She dedicates her entire career primarily for the preservation of historical landmarks in New York. Her primary antagonist is the billionaire, playboy, philanthropist caricature that is George Wade, whose company is primarily responsible for the take down of multiple landmarks across the city. When it is time for the deconstruction of the local community center where Lucy has grown up, she is willing to do whatever it takes to stop that from happening. When she approaches George Wade to confront him about the project, he instead offers her a deal where the project will not destroy the center, in exchange of her continued services as “chief counsel” for the company. After some deliberation with her equally activist parents, she agrees, hoping to use the company’s pro-bono funds for the projects of her interest. The job of course comes with a massive salary and numerous other perks.
However, she soon starts to regret accepting the job as she practically becomes Wade’s personal assistant. Her job includes everything from selecting his ties to accompanying him to various dinners in addition to the work of the counsel. She’s also unable to cope with his habit of treating the slightest issues and decisions as life threatening and beckoning her at the most inopportune moments. She resigns from her position, promising to find a suitable replacement. Over this period, we see them bonding with each other and get used to each others grooves. Their schedules blend into each others seamlessly and so does the humour. After going through many potential replacements, the most suitable one is June, a candidate from the same university as Lucy. Lucy’s only problem is that June is equally gorgeous and willing to flatter her way up the hierarchy. She soon proves her capability in both the domains and is slated to succeed Lucy. We also find out that the Lucy’s community center is also going to be deconstructed anyway as the company cannot bear the losses. Lucy flares up after hearing this and takes her complaints to George’s hotel room, only to find June and George in a compromising position. She is devastated and sheepishly leaves them alone. The next day George confronts Lucy and they both have a heated fight where some uncouth things are said of each other. Humiliated and angry, Lucy finally leaves her workplace in tears.
Fast-forward to a few days later where Lucy is working at small law office that works for the public good. Out of nowhere, George shows up to her workplace. After asking to speak to her, he proclaims his love for her in the form of an impressive yet heartfelt speech that he’s written himself. He also reveals that he’s publicly declared that his company will not destroy the center as it impinges on his promise to Lucy. Lucy thanks him for doing so and asks him to leave. After tearing up over the speech, she too realizes that she loves him and runs over to him, both finally acknowledging their emotions.
Starting with the actors, I think Hugh Grant’s British origins definitely add a sliver of intrigue to his otherwise well known character trope. The film uses humour to call out his character’s womanizing behaviour, for example where Bullock’s hair gets stuck in his pants and the other case where he squarely gives in to June’s attempts to seduce him. The film effectively deploys Bullock’s breadth in terms of acting, her ability to be clumsy, weird and even gross on demand.
The script is realistic for what it hopes to achieve. The few plot conveniences can be disregarded for art’s sake. An indirect source of conflict between Lucy and George’s relationship is the constant pressure from George’s brother to focus on the practical aspects of his work. George’s brother’s insistence of tearing down the community center is also the reason for the peak conflict between the couple. Towards the end, George also loses his job and some of his financial standing due because of his defiance of his brother. Lucy also pays a price for her workaholism. She regularly complains of ulcers, has an eating disorder due to her stressful work environment and is also unable to maintain any successful romantic relationships as a result of her dedication.
The story also gets the very crucial romantic tension correctly. There are plenty moments where it gradually escalates, but the characters withdraw just as it reaches the peaks, leaving the audience panting for more. An example is Lucy’s passionate fight for the possession of her office stapler. The petty item of stationery is a representation of her memories and residual emotions for George. Giving it back is unbearable for her, as she’s already pursuing her ideals at the expense of romantic happiness.
The supporting cast does well to stay out of the way. They cleanly intersect with the plot and depart without having any disproportionate impact. This includes George’s chauffeur and brother, Lucy’s friend and parents. The only blot is Donald Trump’s presence which is out of place and definitely doesn’t age well.
I would recommend this movie any time. Watch it alone, with friends or with the spouse. Contains plenty of interspersed humour, some of which has made an effective transition into cringe, over the years.