The Notebook

The Notebook
Film review by: Witney Seibold

The Notebook

Every element of Nick Cassavetes‘ new film can be seen in at least a hundred other romances: He (in this case, Ryan Gosling, moving effectively from chewhead teen to bitter man) is poor but passionate. She (in this case, Rachel McAdams, all hopped up on giggly goofballs) is rich but repressed. They have a wonderful summer romance, their first love. Mom (Joan Allen, hooray) approves not of their ensuing romance. She moves away. He joins the army, watches his friend die in the snow, moves back home, and builds a house in her honor. She meets another nice young man (James Marsden) who is rich an can provide for her, and they get engaged. She is not happy, though, and treks back home to her first true love. Whom will she choose? Scrappy first love, or slick and handsome provider? The tension is killing me.

With a story this ordinary, one can only judge the film on the small details that set it apart and, of course, the effectiveness of its storytelling. “The Notebook” has one little twist that sets it apart: it’s being told in flashback by an old man in a nursing home (James Garner, great) to a woman suffering severe memory lapses (Gena Rowlands, also great), in order to rekindle something in her. We learn later that these two are the young lovers, now aged, trying to capture the last bits of what they had. It’s actually very sweet. As for the storytelling, it’s schmaltzy, but brisk. Quotidian, but believes in itself. In other words, we’ll be utterly surprised in the exact same way.

The film is based on the book by Nicholas Sparks who, unread by me, seems to be on all young girls’ reading lists for the summer. Judging by his film adaptations (which include “Message in a Bottle” and “A Walk to Remember”), I don’t want to read them. Maybe it’s just because I am a male, but a certain breed of romance novel gives me cavities. This film, however, is a sweet little romance. It’s also so beautifully shot (orange setting suns, shining lakes and the like) that, in the film’s credits, I spotted a special “Beauty Unit.” That’s a first for me.

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Published in: on September 1, 2009 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

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