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The Notebook /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Sam Shepard, Meredith Zealy, Ryan Gosling, Gena Rowlands, Rachel McAdams

Directed by: Nick Cassavetes

Produced by: Jan Sardi, Mark Johnson, Jeremy Leven, Lynn Harris
Written by:
Jan Sardi, Jeremy Leven
Distributor: New Line Cinema


Ryan Gosling as Noah in New Line's The Notebook

Rachel McAdams as Allie and Ryan Gosling as Noah in New Line's The Notebook
James Garner as Duke in New Line's The Notebook

     I think we’ve begun to replace the term “romance” with “romantic-comedy” nowadays. With Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, and Sandra Bullock hogging the screens and sticking IVs full of saccharine into our bloodstreams, it’s refreshing to see a movie like The Notebook in release. There are only a few quiet scenes, which feature subtle humor, in it. But, for the most part, it’s a true romance, taking audiences on a journey, showcasing only the sheer beauty of love. Even if it may be kind of sappy, it will be hard for even the toughest of guys to deny that it’s a good film.

     At times, The Notebook’s white blood cells have to work tough to battle the prevalent melodrama in the script, but for the most part, their count remains high. During the second act, the movie’s immune system reaches its weakest point. However, by the last leg of the journey, I was absorbed in the story as much as I had been during the terrific opening sequences. As shaky and predictable as it may be, director Nick Cassavetes allows The Notebook to flow, and quietly enrapture us, on its own, pure terms.

     The premise is identical to most ditzy schlock, but the film is executed with magic abundant in its contents. Dedicated to making his Alzheimer-patient wife, Allie (Gena Rowlands), remember him, Noah Calhoun (James Garner) reads her a notebook about their lives that she wrote before she was diagnosed, everyday. An unlikely pairing, Noah had to force Allie to go on a date with him, originally. She came from a wealthy family, while he worked at a lumberyard. And, despite Allie’s family’s wishes, their romance lasted for an entire summer, when she visited his town. The two broke it off before she left for college, though, and she eventually became engaged to another man, named Lon (James Marsden). But, before their wedding, Allie had to clear her head and see Noah again, and the two, not surprisingly, hit it off, once again.

     For Rachel McAdams, who plays a young Allie, opposite Ryan Gosling as the teenage Noah, this movie is a breakthrough. Terrible in her two other credited performances, which were in the dreadful Mean Girls and the even worse Hot Chick, it is a downright surprise she is so wonderful here. In most love stories, the female lead is played in a downright brain-dead manner. But, here, McAdams shows off a more human kind of lovey-doviness. She maintains the cute (and sometimes even sexy) presence of other actresses, without sacrificing her characters intelligence to accomplish such. Take Drew Barrymore’s work in 50 First Dates, for example. By that picture’s end, wasn’t she more of a device, following the plot, than a real, living human being? In The Notebook, McAdams allows us to feel real emotion in a somewhat formulaic story. Even though it’s highly doubtful such will happen, I would be overjoyed to see her up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

     Much of The Notebook’s success also lies in the movements of the camera. In movies of this nature, the machine capturing the images seen onscreen should play the role of an additional character. Robert Fraisse’s cinematography makes for just this, elegantly moving around the actors in scenes of passion, and keeping still in those of more delicacy. Not to mention, his work exhibits the cleverest methods of creating PG-13 rated sex scenes since Austin Powers. Fraisse has a collected way of establishing intimacy behind the camera, and this is really a delight to watch.

     I’m not sure why I questioned whether or not The Notebook would be a worthwhile experience, before seeing it. For such a popular book, it would be a crime to not do the source material justice (the fact that it’s a Nicholas Sparks novel would make it even worse). It has happened before, though; in the vast wasteland that is Hollywood, anything goes. Luckily, The Notebook has been handled with care, and was well thought-out in almost every aspect of its delivery. And considering it could’ve been strictly sappy drivel, this is a rather large accomplishment on the part of the tremendous Cassavetes.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (6.26.2004)

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