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The Notebook

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Notebook

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 121 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Joan Allen, James Marsden, Heather Wahlquist, Jamie Brown, Sam Shepard, Lindy Newton, Eve Kagan, Sylvia Jefferies

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 quite gels.

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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