The Notebook
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Nick Cassavetes
scr Jeremy Leven
with Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, James Garner, James Marsden, Joan Allen, Sam Shepard, Kevin Connolly, Jamie Brown, Heather Wahlquist, David Thornton, Starletta DuPois
release US/UK 25.Jun.04
New Line
04/US 2h05

Way ahead of their time, fashion-wise: McAdams and Gosling.

gosling mcadams marsden
rowlands garner allen
The Notebook Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
It only takes about five seconds before we know exactly what we're in for here: Fried Green Magnolias of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. The honeyed glow of romantic nostalgia is nearly overpowering. But at least it features a strong story and fine performances.

In order to stir her Alzheimer's-ravaged memory, Duke (Garner) reads a story to his lifelong partner Allie (Rowlands). Through flashbacks we watch the young Southern debutante Allie (McAdams) wooed by the terribly unsuitable but extremely charming Noah (Gosling), but the two are torn apart by class differences and the outbreak of World War II. Six years later, Allie's in love with the eligible Lon (Marsden) when she runs into Noah. So the main question is this: Which one is Duke--Noah or Lon?

All credit to Cassavetes and Leven that they actually keep us guessing. The plot has more sensitivity than most girly films--realistic characters we can actually believe in and root for. While the sentimentality is pretty oppressive, Cassavetes leaves enough space for the cast members to shine in unhurried, beautifully orchestrated scenes. Gosling and McAdams are constantly surprising, mostly because we've never seen either do anything like this--both are cheeky, earthy and very likeable. And the wonderful Garner and Rowlands light up the screen with rich, complex chemistry. Meanwhile, Marsden and Brown stand out in a small roles that are powerfully well-played, Shepard is superb as Noah's scruffy father and Allen really shines as Allie's steely mother.

But it's all extremely yucky, really. The wistful sweetness is out of control, and Cassavetes shies away from any real grit--the characters' rebellion is superficial, the war scenes are sanitised, sex is simplistic, make-up and costumes are far too perfect (McAdams' skirts seem insanely short for 1940!). The whole city/college girl versus country/working boy thing is stretched to within an inch of credibility. And the story's structure feels badly contrived to push every sappy button right on cue. On the other hand, sometimes a good bit of escapist crying can be good for the soul.

cert 12 adult themes and situations, some violence 2.Jun.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Notebook Brittany, Illinois: 4.5/5 "I thought it was great, but I've seen very poor reviews. If you're into sappy romances, where everything is predictable and turns out just the way you want it (like me), then you'll love it. Basically the problem is that it's a total chick flick meant to see with your mom or your best gal pals. But all the critics rating it are mostly men - of course you won't like it! The stars were cute and the fashion was great! It was a good movie definately worth seeing. Bring tissues!" (27.Jun.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall