Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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The Notebook

Film #250

THE PLOT

A poor and passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman and gives her a sense of freedom. They soon are separated by their social differences.

Year 1, Day 249

BEFORE: Later tonight I have my online Jeopardy! test to take but for now, the second movie in today’s romance double-feature, The Notebook. Ryan Gosling (last seen in Blue Valentine) and Rachel McAdams (last seen in Midnight in Paris) take the lead in one of the most oft-cited romantic films with a large fan following, but apparently not as big of a critical approval. Originally schedule for the day before Valentine’s day, this film is finally getting it’s time to shine, or not. Let’s find out.

AFTER: Unlike Terms of Endearment earlier today which was made considerably better by the ending, The Notebook had the opposite effect; things got worse as the film progressed. As a whole I was very impressed and found it to be a decent genre film with some terrific acting by Gosling and McAdams. But I can’t get over this hatred of the reading of the storybook.

Before I get into the complaint department, let me start with the positives as is my usual pattern. At the onset of the film, things were looking really good. The setup of these two elderly people (played by James Garner and Gena Rowlands) in an assistive living home, the woman with dementia and the man reading her a story from his notebook, was a great segue into the meat of the first act when you are introduced to Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams). Reading a story from a notebook is a bit clichéd but I was willing to go along with it. For the first act I was drawn in by Noah and Allie’s love for each other because of the great chemistry Gosling and McAdams have together. Combine that with some beautiful cinematography and setting it in the early 1900s and I was thinking, “How do people not like this film.”

Well my answer came a little less than an hour into the film. After the first act ended and the summer love between Noah and Allie was split apart (Allie was going off to college in New York and Noah was stuck at the lumber yard in Virginia) everything went downhill. The biggest problem was with the inclusion of the elderly couple and cutting back to the “present day”. This clichéd plot device went from being acceptable, borderline enjoyable, to pointless and destructive to the rest of the film. By ruining the surprise of who this elderly couple is so early on in the film (at the end of this first act), my investment in the rest of the film diminished severely. Finding out who these old people are, while it wasn’t a complete shocker, was a bit surprising and impacted the rest of the viewing. By now you can probably guess who these people are just from reading the review, but if you can’t, think of it like a poker game. It would be like showing your cards to your opponent after the first round of betting. “Hey, just wanted to let you know I have two aces over here.” That’s all well and good but that is something you want to keep secret until all betting is complete and you have the chance to take home the big pot. By spoiling this secret, the final two acts of the film are no longer the same intriguing story that draws me in. The characters remain the same and the Gosling/McAdams performances remain stellar throughout, but there isn’t a reason to care anymore. You know how the story ends, why bother watching the two lovebirds overcome obstacle after obstacle?

I can definitely see where the fans for The Notebook come from. It’s not just great acting but the story itself - while clichéd and predictable at times - still has parts for you to latch onto. However, it’s not all silver and gold. After a great start, the film quickly falls apart blowing the surprise and the entire present day timeline way too early. My advice is 50/50: if you can find another film, go for it; if not, The Notebook won’t be that disappointing that you’ll question what you’re doing.

RATING: 3 out of 5