Title: The Notebook
Play time: 2h 3min
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Screenwriters: Jeremy Leven
Starring: Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Rachel McAdams
The Notebook Movie, is an Adaption from a Novel by Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook was adapted from a novel by Nicholas Sparks (Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember), which should automatically eliminate a large audience contingent — essentially every male, and any female who isn’t well-served by a weepy, ostentatiously sentimental sensibility. So be it. Those people will stay away, and that’s probably for the best; there are no deviations from the Nicholas Sparks blueprint here, and thus little for those who aren’t easily swept away by tales of love at first sight, romance that overcomes all obstacles, lasts forever, conquers Malaysia and breeds several Triple Crown winners.
For those who do go for that sort of thing, as well as for completists such as myself, I will say this: The Notebook is eminently tolerable, well-done within its genre, featuring acting that occasionally approaches brilliance. It happily indulges in other-side-of-the-tracks cliches, creates obscenely zealous villains, dumps perfectly decent people by the wayside in favor of its central love affair, but we go along, more or less — at the very least, there is never any reason for us to howl bloody murder. Well, not until the last ten minutes, anyway.
One of the Most Honest Films Ever – The Notebook
The advertising will play up the Ferris Wheel scene, where young Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) leaps on the moving contraption, hangs by his fingernails at a precarious height, and refuses to climb down until Allie (Rachel McAdams), safely nestled in her seat with another boy, agrees to go out with him. You can sense the movie trying desperately to be iconic, to burrow into the hearts of unsuspecting audiences and be remembered, dammit, become a classic, show up on one of those ridiculous AFI ÒBest Scenes Set on a Ferris WheelÓ lists in 30 years or so. Who knows? It could happen, if the box office planets align.
The movie could actually have used more of such iconic, unbridled romanticism — at least it’s honest. Too often the characters are reduced to speaking, and the script is hell-bent on moving the plot along. If you’re looking for subtlety, you’ve come to the wrong place: at one point, I shit you not, Allie’s mother (Joan Allen) actually says of Noah: “That boy’s got too much spirit for a girl of her circumstance.” Yeah, but tell us how you really feel. And early in the film, Noah makes a very precise diagnosis of Allie’s affliction: “That’s your problem,” he says. “You don’t do what you want.”
It’s pretty egregious, really, but it’s also par for the course, and I quickly pushed it aside in the hope that ignoring the problem would make it go away. It kind of did, to be honest: soon enough, I found myself able to focus on the cheesy but engaging story, and the performances of the cast. James Garner and Gena Rowlands are serviceable as the old geezers reliving the story of their (or someone else’s?) lives, but it is Gosling and McAdams who will be remembered if anyone is. The latter, so wicked and hysterical in Mean Girls, has an appealingly vulnerable quality that transcends her beauty, and her indecisiveness in the second half of the film becomes understandable instead of insufferable. The frighteningly talented Gosling, meanwhile, pretty much defines “rising above the material” here; the way he sells the screenplay’s most impossible moments is remarkable. If you don’t know who he is, you soon will.
The Notebook had a Terrible End!
The flashback structure is annoying in that the “present day” scenes are fairly horrendous. There is some suspense regarding the identity of one of the characters, but that may not even be intentional, as the resolution of that particular mystery is as predictable as possible. And I cannot describe my disappointment as what I rather delightedly believed to be the ultimate fade-to-black turned into merely a prelude to an absolutely disastrous, redundant 10-minute finale. The fact that I saw a very early screening gives me hope that this stunning miscalculation will be excised from the final cut, but don’t hold your breath. I trust that your heart will sink as well when you see it; there’s simply no excuse for this kind of thing.
Yet I must admit I was expecting much, much worse. As these things go, The Notebook is watchable and sometimes even laudable, if only for its technical proficiency. The film does absolutely nothing new, brave or surprising, but it treads its familiar ground with a comfortable, well-practiced gait.