starring Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Mark Feuerstein, Dorian Missick
written and directed by Marc Lawrence
by Walter Chaw Nearly the same movie as last week's Maid in Manhattan (only with more likeable stars and more believable chemistry between them), Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant's Two Weeks Notice [sic] is essentially just another opportunity for Bullock to play her wound-up, frumpy pratfall princess (recently hijacked by Nia Vardalos and her hard-to-stomach My Big Fat Greek Wedding), and for Grant to do his insufferable prat routine, both against the backdrop of the impossibly romantic golden Manhattan that is not to be confused with Spike Lee's impossibly dour boilerplate Manhattan. Bullock is Lucy Kelson, Harvard-educated lawyer who has taken on the Birkenstock cause in her crusade against big business. Grant is George Wade, uneducated baron of big business who is so zealous to knock down historic landmarks that even his wrecking balls are emblazoned with Wade-Co's giant "W."
That Lucy will melt George's heart of industry is a given; that said melting will occur during a late-in-film speech that salvages what promises to be a romantically tragic ending, also a given. That George will be let off the hook for decades of philandering and fecklessness is a matter of course, likewise that Lucy will happily become that which she detests, thus completing Bullock's patented humiliation cycle. What surprises and dismays is the sloppiness of Two Weeks Notice, from the missing apostrophe in its title to boom-mike intrusions, crew members wandering into long tracking shots, distracting continuity errors involving changing nose rings (plus George making two consecutive chess moves against his sassy African-American chauffeur), and the extreme marginalization of minorities for cheap laughs. Also grating is the propensity for the picture to narrate events with popular music selections, i.e., "Taking Care of Business" scores a scene in which Bullock really needs to evacuate her bowels, and "Come Fly with Me" can be heard under a scene where our odd couple fly around in a helicopter. It's moviemaking of and for the lowest common denominator.
More disturbing than its paternalistic racism and generally condescending mien, however, is the understanding that Bullock again attempts to squeeze her size-4 model body into the "everywoman" mold. Lucy's quirk, above and beyond all the tedious liberal proselytizing that seems stock and trade now in misogynistic films that believe you won't notice them as such, is that she engages in frightening binge-eating episodes entirely without consequence (that is, vomiting or exercise or weight gain). Other women in the film are either non-threatening objects for comic relief or the more damaging bimbo archetype of a scheming, dingy, promiscuous man-eater, the variety of which flooded Ms. Bullock's disquieting Miss Congeniality (written by this picture's writer-director, Marc Lawrence). How films like Two Weeks Notice (and Sweet Home Alabama, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and so on) consistently fly under the radar with their traditional messages and non-threatening institutionalized empowerment is a question as confounding and frustrating as the question of why people continue to spend good time and money to see endlessly reproducible entertainment like this in the first place.
Grant and Bullock each are affable personalities and both contribute a scene or two that salvages the film in a superficial way. The sight of Bullock constantly falling down, stumbling, getting the ass of her skirt dirty, and spilling coffee on herself (she even does the telephone ear-piece gag recently immortalized by Vardalos) and, likewise, the sound of Grant dreamily spinning off anglophilian bon mots ("My life is very much like Monopoly, actually"), however, is first mildly amusing, then mildly narcotizing: rapture of the not very deep. Two Weeks Notice will find its audience of middle-class women infatuated with the Pretty Woman fantasy of Richie Rich finding the needle of gold in the dishevelled haystack. That it no doubt was in production concurrent with Maid in Manhattan--and that both films share an unsettling number of identical scenes (see also: You've Got Mail)--speaks volumes of the lack of imagination and care lavished on the traditional romantic comedy. In a year that has seen more than its share of gorgeous, sublime romantic films, the failure of Two Weeks Notice is glaring and embarrassing. Originally published: December 20, 2002.