The Notebook Movie Review

I cannot believe I'm about to recommend a movie as clogged with melodramatic treacle as Nick Cassavetes' adaptation of "The Notebook" -- a self-serious soap opera by novelist Nicholas Sparks, who never met a romantic cliché, dramatic contrivance, transparent plot point or insipid line of dialogue he didn't love like a dog in heat.

Even more outwardly trite than the author's "A Walk to Remember" and "Message In a Bottle," this story is about a beautiful, privileged Southern debutante falling in love with a young, earthy mill worker in the small town where she spends the summer of 1940.

Her high-and-mighty parents object, naturally, and drag her off to Savannah. He writes every day, but her mother intercepts the letters, and the heartbroken Allie (Rachel McAdams, "Mean Girls") doesn't find out until seven years later that the heartbroken Noah (Ryan Gosling, "Murder by Numbers") never stopped thinking about her. They meet again by chance, just as she's about to marry a generically wonderful rich guy (James Marsden) -- whom she really does love, of course. But when she sees Noah...well, you get the idea.

There is not one single millisecond of originality or opaqueness in the entirety of "The Notebook," and by all rights the actors should be dragged down and drowned by the boat anchor of a script. Yet, through what must be the super-human will of a uniformly fantastic cast determined to keep their heads above water, something remarkable happens: These characters not only come vividly to life, they also seem so earnestly and effortlessly unaffected that even while taking furious notes about the aggravatingly trite and predictable corniness of their circumstances, I still became honestly and emotionally invested in their affair.

Both beguiling, apple-cheeked McAdams and fervent, unfettered, philosophical Gosling have unexpected depth and palpable emotional gravitas -- but not so much that they don't truly feel like a couple kids discovering freedom in the throes of first love and terrible despair the wake of having it torn from them. When they meet again in their 20s, the weight of those emotions, which have taken seed in the deep recesses of their souls, is even more palpable.

Contributing to the movie's heartbeat (and heartbreak) is a modern wrap-around story set in a care home, where frail heart patient James Garner lovingly reads the story of Noah and Allie to Alzheimer's-ravaged Gina Rowlands, thus narrating the period story with awful lines like, "It was an improbable romance. He was a country boy while she was from the city. She had the world at her feet while he didn't have two dimes to rub together." Yeish!

But again, wonderful acting makes up for the fact that despite conspicuous efforts not to identify these older characters by names, it's more than obvious who they are and what Garner hopes to accomplish by recounting this story to Rowlands.

The fact that director Cassavetes (Rowland's son) nurtures his actors into such affecting performances goes a long way toward offsetting his complacency in the script's cursory style. "The Notebook" is so singularly focused on cheap romantic melodrama that the entirety of World War II is reduced a montage sequence in which, of course, Noah's best friend dies in his arms on the battlefield. Its plot is so thin that Allie's fiancé is never a convincing impediment because he doesn't get any more screen time than the war, although McAdams' heartfelt romantic bewilderment makes up the difference.

Even the development of the central relationship is sometimes told in shorthand. After nothing but gauzy scenes of kissing, laughing and staring in each others' eyes, suddenly Garner's narration makes the hitherto unsubstantiated claim that "They didn't agree on much. They fought all the time."

But Garner, Rowlands, Gosling and McAdams rise so far above the volumes of drivel that inundate "The Notebook" that by the end I'd completely abandoned my cynicism toward the picture and became genuinely (and frustratingly) choked up as it came to the inevitable, tear-jerking conclusion I'd seen coming way back in the first reel.

By no stretch of the imagination would I call "The Notebook" a good movie, but it is a shining example of how great acting can overcome even the worst script.

Comments

iN LOVE WiTH HiM's picture

iN LOVE WiTH HiM

her name is allie hamilton not nelson get it right and

7 years 10 months ago
Report
View Comments

jessie's picture

jessie

I think that this movie is the best movie ever!

7 years 10 months ago
Report
View Comments

Melirra's picture

Melirra

Well, I think that this is one of the most importants ryan's work because he had never performed a character like noah calhoun, so Its something new and it's a really beautiful storyI fall in love with life itself after seen the movie.I mean, the history of those two young lovers, and the way that rachel and ryan performing, I just love itSorry for the mistakes, Im learning english in this moment

8 years 2 weeks ago
Report
View Comments

The Notebook Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, June 25, 2004

Advertisement

More Ryan Gosling

Actors That Just Can't Stand The Sight of Each Other

Recently, Freddie Prinze Jr. revealed that he thought Kiefer Sutherland was ‘the most unprofessional’ person he’d ever worked with during his time on the hit...

Rachel McAdams Embarrassed By Notebook Audition Footage

The romantic film, which has just celebrated its ten year anniversary, was a global hit and launched the careers of Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling....

Twitter Explodes Over Ryan Gosling's Baby News: Five Other Celebrity Crushes You Have No Chance With

Hey girl, did you know that Ryan Gosling is about to be a dad? Neither did anyone else until this week, but when he and...

Eva Mendes Pregnant With Ryan Gosling’s Baby? Reports Suggest Actress Is Two Months From Childbirth

Eva Mendes could be seven months pregnant with Ryan Gosling's baby, unconfirmed reports have suggested. As well as expecting a child, the couple could also...

Advertisement

Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdams 'Screamed' At Each Other Whilst Filming 'The Notebook'

Everyone may rave about Ryan Gosling's chivalrous portrayal of Noah Calhoun in The Notebook but he was hardly as gallant off screen with his co-star...

What Chemistry? Ryan Gosling And Rachel McAdams Fought During ‘The Notebook’ Filming

The Notebook has just turned ten, bringing the classic romance movie back into the headlines with a deluge of new interviews and trivia regarding the...

Rachel McAdams' 'The Notebook' Audition Tape Will Give You Shivers

Once of the world's best-loved romance movies, The Notebook, has just turned ten, marking a decade since the then little-known actors Ryan Gosling and Rachel...

Ryan Gosling's Father's Day Adoption Hoax Fools Almost 1 Million Facebook Users

Fans of Ryan Gosling were left feeling red-faced this past weekend.The 33 year-old actor was recently at the center of a Father's Day hoax that...

Advertisement