out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling|
Director: Nick Cassavetes
RunTime: 121 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genres: Drama, Romance
Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4
In Nick Cassavetes's THE NOTEBOOK, the classic cars are gorgeous, the sunsets
are magnificent, the cinematography is always breathtaking and the frequent
romantic music is stirring. In short, the production values are consistently
outstanding. The same, however, can't be said of Jan Sardi's adaptation of
Nicholas Sparks's novel, which leaves no cliché unturned. The movie tries hard
to earn our emotional involvement in its story, which is in equal measures
heart-warming and tear-jerking. But, the harder it tries, the less we buy the
characters who, with two exceptions, are never quite genuine.
The much smaller and better part of the picture is set in the present at a
nursing home. In two endearing performances, James Garner and Gena Rowlands
play a couple of members of the nursing home. Well, not exactly. The woman
has been hospitalized for her Alzheimer's, and the man, who is just visiting,
is there to read to her the story that is written in his notebook. It's a
story that he has read again and again to her about two young lovers named Noah
and Allie. The woman doesn't remember the man or the story. Or does she?
Perhaps there is just a glimmer of recognition every now and then. The
inevitable scenes in which the obvious is spelled out are certain to make even
the most callous tear up a bit.
The flashbacks, which take up the vast majority of the screen time, concern
these young lovers from the notebook. Ryan Gosling (THE UNITED STATES OF
LELAND) plays Noah Calhoun, and Rachel McAdams (the lead bitch in MEAN GIRLS)
plays Allie Hamilton. As their story begins in the late 1930s, 17-year-old
Allie is starting to have a summer fling with Noah. She is a free-spirit,
wanting to break free from her tightly controlled life as a super-rich girl,
while he is a happily poor guy who works at the lumbar yard. In one of the
many contrived moments, Noah is asked by a member of the landed gentry, during
a large and formal dinner party, how much he earns. With no embarrassment,
Noah says that he makes forty cents per hour.
The lovers are your typically horny teens who can't get enough of each other,
but, in the context of the time, most of their love making is intense kissing.
These scenes of passion between them are these two actors' best moments.
Generally Gosling plays his part too remotely. It is never clear, except when
he is kissing, exactly what his feelings are. In contrast, McAdams is so
wildly effervescent that she is not convincing for different reasons. Their
story continues on for many years after their first summer together but never
Whenever the kids are on the screen, you keep wishing that they'd send the
grown-ups back in. Garner and Rowlands are uniformly magnificent.
THE NOTEBOOK runs 1:55. It is rated PG-13 for "some sexuality" and would be
acceptable for kids around 11 and up.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes
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