The Notebook (10/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

This is as good as a movie gets. The story bounces back and forth between the early ‘40s and present day, as James Garner is reading from a notebook to Gena Rowlands, who is afflicted with dementia that affects her memory and awareness. The story he’s reading is about 17 year-old Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) and Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling). Allie is in Seabrook, North Carolina with her parents in 1940 to spend the summer. Noah sees her and is instantly attracted. He contrives to meet her, which starts a torrid summer romance.

McAdams was last seen in Mean Girls, in which she played the leader of The Plastics, three overbearing bitchy teens. Here she’s the romantic lead. Her performance is so good it’s overwhelming. Teaming with Gosling, they create a romantic atmosphere that Hollywood sometimes finds. It’s rare, but when it does it makes a movie magic, which is what The Notebook was for me.

Gosling was cast right at the getgo, but the filmmakers conducted a nationwide search to cast Allie.  “When Rachel came in and read, it was apparent that she was the one,” says Director Nick Cassavetes. “She and Ryan had great chemistry between them.” That’s for sure. Although McAdams lights up the screen and Gosling is in her league, they are aided by sensitive performances by Garner and Rowlands.

The Notebook is directed by Cassavetes (Rowlands’ son) from a screenplay by Jeremy Leven, adaptation by Jan Sardi, based on a best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. Shot on location in North Carolina, the cinematography (Robert Fraisse, who shot last year’s Luther) captures the feeling of life in a small southern town just prior to Pearl Harbor.

Cassavetes displays a master’s touch in presenting romantic young love as well as Garner’s obvious devotion to a relatively non responsive Rowlands. Most of the film, however, is devoted to Allie and Noah, and I liked that because McAdams couldn’t be on the screen too much for me. Who wouldn't fall in love with her?

At the screening, they handed out packets of Kleenex, which I used. Although it’s mostly the story of Allie and Noah and the love they feel for each other, it does contain scenes that tear at your heart. I see several films a week, year after year. Once in a great while I see one that I know will stay with me for the rest of my life. That’s The Notebook. I’ve read and reread this review and it just doesn’t give this film justice. All I can say is this is a don’t miss, romantic, evocative, poignant tale, but come prepared.

June 12, 2004

The End