The Notebook


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

In the love-conquers-all category of damp-eyed girlie films, The Notebook has been split into two - the old and the young - which appears to be a storytelling contrivance that adds another layer of sentimentality and treats senile dementia like a bedside lamp, to be switched on and off at the scriptwriter's convenience.

The cinematography is packaged in a red-ribboned chocolate box, with emphasis on gut-melting sunsets, riverscapes and white birds aflying. The visual beauty screams, "Say it! Say it!"

What you have to say is: "I love you."

A kindly gentleman (James Garner) at a posh retirement home/hospital likes to read to the white-haired lady (Gena Rowlands), whose memory is on the blink. His book tells of Noah, a working-class boy in the rural South, who enjoys a summer romance with effervescent, rich Allie.

The predictability of the plotline does not matter, because you can't expect old money landed gentry to lie down and watch their dinky daughter take puppy love with a boy from the timber yards seriously. They know best and have the money to ship her out of town to a finishing school in New York, where she will make new friends from more suitable backgrounds.

The story ranges from teenage innocence to post-war depression. The chaste lovers are torn apart by Mommy (a terrific performance from Joan Allen), after which Allie becomes engaged to a rich Southern charmer and Noah rebuilds the ruined planter's mansion, where once they almost made love.

Do they meet again?

Stupidly, you care, which does credit to Nick Cassavetes's direction, as well as attractive performances from the juve leads. Ryan Gosling (Noah) is not a boy band substitute; he's hardly teen heartthrob material. What he has is character by the truckload, like Jimmy Stewart at a similar age.

Rachel McAdams (Allie) has the look of Kylie 10 years ago and conveys the flippant gaiety of privileged youth, with added emotional depth. Garner and Rowlands (the director's mother in real life) are never stretched, but having them there is comforting. They exist at the mushy end of things and, being hardered professionals, keep the sugar content low. With this script, that's not easy.

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2004
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Old fashioned love story between a boy from the lumber yards and a girl from the big house.
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Director: Nick Cassavetes

Writer: Jeremy Leven, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Joan Allen, James Marsden, Heather Wahlquist, Kevin Connolly, David Thornton, Lindy Newton

Year: 2004

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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