The Notebook

"Weak"

The Notebook Review


With just four films under Nick Cassavetes's belt, it's almost unfair to compare the director to his trailblazing father. In the case of The Notebook, however, it's unavoidable.

Thanks to papa John (Husbands, Gloria), the name Cassavetes has come to symbolize intrepid, no-apologies filmmaking and the unconventional human interaction within Now, 15 years after the maverick's death, his heir has traveled to the opposite pole, adapting a Nicholas Sparks novel into a standard tearjerker, filling the screen with handfuls of manipulative Hollywood clichés.

The Notebook chronicles the courtship of Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling, Murder by Numbers) and Allie Nelson (Mean Girls' Rachel McAdams), two feisty Southerners from vastly different social upbringings. Noah's a quiet lumberyard worker with a couple of bucks and Allie's a rich and studious go-getter with the world at her feet. Noah sees pretty miss Allie for the first time at a carnival just before WWII, and falls for her instantly. He chases her and quickly wins her heart, and the two enjoy the wistful type of first romance that makes anyone pine for a simpler time.

The acting pair is engaging (Gosling especially), the Southern front-porch atmosphere is inviting, and the film has a decent energy and pacing. The problem? A storytelling device that plunges The Notebook into the territory of CBS Hallmark specials. The fable of these young lovers is being told in flashback, as old-timer James Garner plays oral historian, passing the tale along to a not-all-there Gena Rowlands. As she repeatedly wonders aloud, "How will this story end?" it becomes glaringly apparent that the film's likable romance exists primarily to get to an overly weepy ending -- one that Cassavetes and screenwriter Jeremy Leven (Alex and Emma) enjoy shoving down our throats.

I'd bet this jumping back and forth along the timeline is essential in Sparks's novel, but it's wasteful onscreen, holding little of the emotion or tension that the filmmakers intended. This type of framework has been a stumbling block for solid Hollywood entertainment before, recently in Saving Private Ryan (the clunky narrative of the Normandy visit) and The Bridges of Madison County (the reading of notes and letters). The Notebook's problem, however, is worse: By hinging on the dynamic of the flashback, rather than its action and meaning, the past loses some of its heartache and sting, and the film feels like nothing but a means to an end.

In the 1940s scenes, Cassavetes gives us small spoonfuls of reality like disapproving parents, nervous lovers and even war. In the current day, we get an insulting Hollywood view of what appears to be Alzheimer's -- simply called "dementia," presumably so the filmmakers could play around with its effects for the sake of the story. We also get the film's most cursory, stagy dialogue, as well as performances that can't lift those words out of the muck.

Anyone can appreciate the power of love and the amazing things it can do. You can turn on 20/20 or Dateline about once a month and see incredible tales of how love and dedication help a family stay together or give an injured friend remarkable strength. Taking that concept to sappy levels in fiction carries little weight in comparison. Cassavetes doesn't provide the passion of say, a Lorenzo's Oil -- instead he gives us pieces of a romance novel (and I don't mean The Notebook itself) minus the steamy parts. We get young people starting out and old people at the end of the road, and are expected to take their lifetime love and commitment at face value... even though we never get to actually see it. If you want a Cassavetes film about real commitment, try Unhook the Stars. Or, better yet, try the senior Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence.

The DVD includes a substantial number of deleted scenes, two commentary tracks, and a few extra featurettes which the cultlike fans of this film will devour whole.

The smokebook.



The Notebook

Facts and Figures

Run time: 123 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th June 2004

Box Office Worldwide: $115.6M

Budget: $29M

Production compaines: New Line Cinema

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Allie Hamilton, as Noah Calhoun, as Allie Calhoun, as Duke, as Frank Calhoun, as Anne Hamilton, as Lon Hammond Jr., as John Hamilton, as Fin

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Advertisement
Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.