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The Notebook

February 21, 2013

The Notebook (2004)
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Actors: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner

Notebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis: An old man (James Garner) in a nursing home, recounts the story of a star-crossed young couple (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) in the 1940s US South, to a woman suffering from dementia (Gena Rowlands).

Review: This highly romantic, epically sentimentalised yarn demands a real sweet tooth from its spectator, and alas its gooey confection proved far too much for my ‘discerning’ palate! Director Nick Cassavetes goes ‘all guns blazing’ with a style designed to mine every possible opportunity for pathos in the narrative, so we get multiple horizon and sunset shots, slo-mo sequences of scenic white geese flying across a gorgeous lake, and the two young lovers having their cathartic moment of ‘make-up sex’ in that classic movie staple of a couple making out in the middle of a rainstorm.

All this would be fine if the story was impeccably crafted – after all, I like nothing more than a guilty slice from the Hollywood hokum cake – but to me, there are far too many shortcomings to overlook in the narrative construct. To list them all would be overly-laborious, but to name a few salient ones: the significance of the framing device (an elderly gent recounting a youthful love story to a senile old woman) is far too obvious; I didn’t quite buy the suddenness with which McAdams’ character falls for Gosling’s boy from the “wrong side of the tracks” (I know the script needs them to fall in love at that moment, but I didn’t quite believe it); and there’s a bizarre sequence that belies the whole ’emotional pornography’ of the Nicholas Sparks brand when we cut to a WW2 scene where Gosling’s best friend suddenly dies, only for it never to be mentioned again in the film, but I suppose any attempt, no matter how clumsy, to give Gosling’s character a bit more of a noble, tragic edge is worth a crack?

Perhaps the element to the film I liked the best was the repartee between James Garner and Gena Rowlands in the nursing home. Although, as I mentioned earlier, the ‘twist’ about this relationship becomes fairly obvious early on, I like the idea behind the framing device, as it nicely questions the worth of all this gushing romance and youthful bliss if it’s ultimately to be lost and forgotten? James Garner in particular lends this dialectic a graceful gravity that perhaps the rest of the film’s more simplistic romanticism doesn’t deserve. (February 2012)

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