Other than Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant has to fit into a three-way tie for the most appealing actor in 1990s romantic comedies and dramas. Who can forget that 1994-1995 span when Grant appeared in not only “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, but also “Sense and Sensibility”, and the underrated “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain?” After his scandalous 1995 prostitute incident was finally forgotten, he was allowed to have a second wind of more successful romantic films for the next decade.
After the critical drubbing of romantic comedy “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” in 2009, he seemed to step away from the romantic genre and instead went in two other directions. Voice work seemed to be his calling last year after three years away from acting. “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” turned out to be a substantial hit that allowed Grant to lend his voice for the first time to a big-screen animated film.
Then there was “Cloud Atlas”, which provided him the first opportunity to play six different characters. Those roles could have bounced him into more dramatic realms that he hasn’t explored much of since his very earliest acting days. He must have understood, though, that romantic comedies were his best niche where he always created refreshing characters while essentially portraying himself.
Now he’ll apparently reignite his romantic comedy spark where his character could be somewhat of an analogy for his once own career trajectory. With Marisa Tomei reportedly being the romantic interest, Grant plays a screenwriter who was popular in the 1990s, yet becomes the antithesis in the modern day. Yes, Grant had to see some irony in such a plot when the 1990s were personally burgeoning years.
This project is from Marc Lawrence who also wrote Grant’s last romantic comedy that may or may not have instigated Grant’s disappearance from the genre. With such a dearth of romantic comedies from the 1990s school and most others a Judd Apatow production, it’s fairly clear why Grant would go back to a Lawrence romantic movie. Besides, we know Lawrence also wrote “Two Weeks Notice” and “Music and Lyrics” that were successful and throwbacks to the Grant wit we remember.
Would Grant be able to reinvent himself as a new romantic comedy lead once the Lawrence movie releases? He’d follow in the footsteps of other stars trying to return to the genres where they first had their greatest successes. Everyone from Bruce Willis to Jim Carrey seem to be heading back to their genre roots that oddly all seemed to coalesce in the 1990s.
Whether Grant can still master the “Four Weddings and a Funeral” charm is another matter. The good news is that he’s aged fairly well physically, unlike some of his peers. It helps that he’s kept his witty, British sensibility as a way toward making any romantic comedy script sound better than it perhaps really is.