There's this old gag that goes like this (friends and family of
Ronald Reagan, please excuse:)
Patient: Doctor, doctor, you've got to help! My problem is that I
can't remember anything!
Doctor: When did you first notice this problem?
Patient: What problem?
As though we've not heard enough of late about Alzheimer's and
the race for a cure, along comes "The Notebook," which is
framed by the intermittent relationships of an eighty-one-year-old
gentleman, Duke (James Garner) and a woman suffering from
dementia, Allie Calhoun (Gena Rowlands) to whom he is reading
a sentimental story from the titular notebook. While at the
conclusion of the movie we learn who is the author of the
notebook, it doesn't take long for the mostly youthful female
audience who is director Nick Cassavetes's principal demo, to
guess what's up. "The Notebook" is a beautifully photographed,
albeit weepy, tale of a seemingly impossible love between a
young man, Noah Calhoun (Ryan Goslin) who is considered
"trash" by the woman he'd like to make his mother-in-law and a
godsend by his privileged sweetheart, Allie Hamilton (Rachel
McAdams). As Duke reads, we learn that Noah is a salt-of-the-
earth type working in the year 1940 for a lumber company,
making forty cents an hour. Allie, who is seventeen years old and
about to go to Sarah Lawrence College, is a city gal spending
time with her folks in their lush country home in Seabrook, South
Carolina (actually filmed in Charleston).
"The Notebook" would seem to have an obvious trajectory,
except that the guy who does meet the approval of Allie's folks is
as least as handsome as Noah, comes from a rich family, and is
so understanding of the woman who becomes his fiancé that he
has no problem watching her take off for parts unknown for days
to sort out the two men in her life. Too bad that bigamy is not
legal in the U.S. because these two guys, Noah, and his rich rival
Lon (James Marden) are both suited for her: the former because,
well, he's really Ryan Gosling, who recently starred as a
disturbed chap in "The United States of Leland" while the latter
would allow Allie to live in the style to which she's accustomed.
Some suspense is generated when the 8l-year-old Allie, to whom
Cassavetes flashes forward now and then, asks how the story
ends, but soap notwithstanding, your judgment of the picture may
be informed by whether you, like many critics, believe that
sweetness and sentimentality and, yes, soap, have no place in a
contemporary romance or whether you'll like a good cry and see
nothing wrong with a pic that will enrich the Kleenex people.
Count me as belonging to the second group, cynic though I may
be at times. Robert Fraisse does a first-class job photographing
scenes in the lovely and historic Charleston, SC, a particularly
lavish shot taking place on a lake where the lovers, taking a boat
road, are surrounded by friendly ducks–a sight that could
ostensibly stimulate the (tear) ducts of the less misanthropic
members of the audience like me.
Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten