The Notebook

Review Date:
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Writer: Jeremy Leven
Producers: Lynn Harris, Mark Johnson
Ryan Gosling as Noah, Rachel McAdams as Allie, James Marsden
A poor, young country boy falls in love with a rich girl during one heated summer romance, but is eventually faced with her parents’ disapproval and her end-of-season trip home. The loving couple are further separated by the war, but do ultimately meet again, years later, with one having “moved on” and the other…well, not so much. Romance, laughs, country-style humping (just kidding) and true love…ensues.
I’ve always thought of myself as a “guy’s guy”. I like to drink, watch porno, play sports (or vice-versa), hang out with the fellas, talk shit and generally squirm at most “chick flicks”, particularly those draped in syrupy romantic schmaltz. That said, some of my favorite movies of all-time include WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and JERRY MAGUIRE. Weird, eh? All that to say that despite not shedding a tear from my eyes over the past year or so (see above “guy’s guy” note), some wetness did accumulate in my eye sockets during this screening-in fact, a decent amount. And the ladies in the audience…well, let’s just say that I haven’t heard sobbing this heavy since Leo bit it in TITANIC. So even though most romantic films are somewhat subjective at their core, I really enjoyed this one on its sappy, lovey-dovey level and I’m not afraid to admit it (well, if you asked me on the street…I likely wouldn’t admit it, but you get what I mean) That said, just like romance in real life, some might find it “cheesy” since what’s romantic to some, might be interpreted as “corny” to others. For example, do you consider eating nachos with your girlfriend while watching the INDIANA JONES trilogy on DVD (back to back to back!) romantic? Does she? Do you consider slow dancing to a Frank Sinatra tune, romantic? Does she? And how about leaving cute little notes in her sock/rubber drawer? Goofy? Romantic? Lame?

Romance is a tough nut to crack, but I think this film manages to capture its pure essence with innocence and vulnerability in full tow, not to mention a hefty dose of chemistry between the two leads, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, both of whom offer powerful performances. I got into both of their characters from the get-go and was particularly taken by Gosling, who I’ve always respected as an actor, but who hadn’t really shown us this side of his chops before (he usually plays the “creepy guy”). Here, he played the “romantic guy” and pulled it off gangbusters! I also related to the film’s deeper message about the ongoing power of true love and fell for most every sweet moment (their initial meeting, their love-making sequence, the possible break-up, etc…), every romantic gesture (the amusement park, the ‘follow the arrow’ routine, the boat ride through the geese-filled pond, etc…) and every predictable, yet quite believable and poignant, turn in narrative. I guess it didn’t hurt that I went through a similar situation with my own girlfriend (oh no, not again!!) a while back and literally used some of the same lines that the chump in this flick used. One part of the film that didn’t entirely work for me was the sub-plot featuring James Garner and Gena Rowlands though (the director’s mom in real life) Every time they switched back to them (which thankfully, wasn’t very often), it seemed to slow the pace of the film down, even though I knew why it had to be done. Ultimately, another layer was added to the movie through this secondary by-line, but I guess the chemistry/acting between the older stars wasn’t as engaging as the younger ones. The film’s final 5-10 minutes were also somewhat anti-climactic, but the final shot had me weeping like a child-so I guess something worked somewhere.

This film also set up a credible love-triangle a la SWEET HOME ALABAMA, that I can always appreciate, particularly when all of the characters are fleshed out enough to truly be invested in its outcome. Cyclops (a dashing James Marsden) played the third wheel here and did so admirably, without having to come off like your typical Joe Asshole. I’ve always found it interesting that “in the movies”, a girl caught in a situation of romantic indecision between two fellas, will ultimately “go with her heart” and choose the guy she truly loves, while real life experience has shown me that most women end up choosing “security” (read: money) over the whole “love thang”. That said, this film isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but is packed with plenty of mushy goodness, great acting, palpable chemistry, sweet nothings, impressive cinematography, romance galore and even some humorous touches to keep things light. Guys, if you want to get into your lady friend’s pants…oops, I mean “good books”, take her to this flick and email me some pictures of your rightful reward afterwards. Who knows, you might actually even like it as much as I did. As for the girls, well, this is a no-brainer, especially if you thought COLD MOUNTAIN was missing that certain “je ne sais quoi” (this film has that “quoi”!) Just don’t forget to bring the Kleenex…trust me, you’re gonna need it…either way.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

The Notebook



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