The Notebook

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating:RATED PG-13 for sexual suggestions and partial nudity
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes

Final Grade:

In many cases, films that are based upon the concept of “true love” get a bad reputation from critics and moviegoers. The characters in these tales often act in ways that seem unreasonable, unlikely, and unnecessary, and the overly sentimental message of these films is too much for most. But in the case of The Notebook, it’s what makes me love it. This is a romance that’s true to that word, not this world.

The story of Allie and Noah, adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ acclaimed novel, is romance in its purest fictional level. Their actions may not be probable, and at times are extremely unbelievable. But, in the context of the story, they’re perfectly in-line with what should happen to these characters. They’re rare people, whose personalities and characteristics aren’t restricted by ordinary guidelines.

Leaving those points aside, Nick Cassavetes’ film is a beautifully shot one, which is carried by a charismatic cast. Leading in this aspect are Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, who give star-making performances as the couple in peril. Gosling (Murder by Numbers, The Believer) shows his potential to be a fierce, yet likable leading man down the road, while McAdams’ (Mean Girls) beauty and charm are impossible to miss. It’s refreshing to see two young actors paired like this, and I have a feeling this film may be looked back on in a few years as a starting point for two stars – Gosling’s already landed upcoming roles working with the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Benicio Del Toro, and Ewan McGregor; while McAdams is now the frontrunner for the female lead in The Fantastic Four. This film is a welcome to Hollywood stardom for them both.

With all this praise I’ve been pouring on with, you’d think this was a perfect film. It’s not. Firstly, if you’ve seen the film’s trailer, the film’s biggest surprise has probably been spoiled for you. It’s really not a hard one to see coming, as the narrative doesn’t rely on much suspense, nor does it hide its intentions. The plot dips into the well of love story clichés often, and the finale is a strangely abrupt change of pace, though it fits together better in retrospect. Particularly out of place is the third act revelation from Allie’s mother (the great Joan Allen, in a thankless and brief role), which seems to be a sudden and improbable change.

I could pick The Notebook apart in these respects, but I don’t really want to. I felt for these characters, and felt a great deal of joy in watching actors so passionate about their roles. This level of care helps the fantastic love tale that is the plot’s soul cancel out the clichés and predictability, and at times manages to overthrow them. The Notebook isn’t a perfect film, nor does it fit well into these summer months, sandwiched between big budget spectacles and ridiculous comedies. But it’s a pleasant diversion that left me with a smile on my face and characters I’ll remember, which is more than I can say most films of this genre.

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