Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
General Audiences: A-
Probably the most original surprise hit of the year. Romantic drama about first loves and second chances. Chick flick. No language, explicit sex or violence.
Family Audience: Rated PG-13
Adult themes, including some sexuality. Females 15 and older will beat a path to this film in droves. Males 13 to 18 will prefer a dip in the pool or playing Xbox.
Men are in trouble. Any woman who sees this film is going to go home and compare her mate to Noah, the male lead character with a personality that exists only in the minds of women who think romance novels are non-fiction.
After Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling), a humble country boy, finds his soulmate for life, he promises to love only her for eternity. Even after she leaves him, he writes thoughtful letters to her every day for a year and executes an elaborate surprise gift for her, complete in every imaginable detail, thoughtfully and painstakingly arranged and accounted for.
Watching this scene made me sink in my seat. Men are going to want this film banned. Noah sets the bar too high for us mere male mortals.
The Notebook is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Nicholas Spark. Directed by Nick Cassavetes, the film opens with a Southern gentleman (James Garner) in a nursing home reading passages from a notebook to a fellow resident with dementia (Gena Rowlands).
As he reads, a summer love story between a girl and boy from different worlds visually unfolds, turning back the clock to the quiet seaside town of Seabrook, N. C., in the 1940s.
Noah, a general laborer at the local lumber mill, and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), a wealthy debutante, meet at a local carnival and fall hopelessly in love.
Naturally, Allie’s mamma (Joan Allen) makes every effort to keep them apart, including sending her to an out-of-state college and encouraging her to marry Lon (James Marsden), a wealthy officer from a good Southern family.
However, the exceptionally devoted, skillful and amusing Noah makes a lasting impression on Allie before she begins school and never stops impressing her, even after she has finished.
Prior to her departure for New York, Noah takes Allie away from her secluded country-club existence to a more carefree world, where the best things in life are fun and free. And, when she meets him again seven years later, she discovers he’s also a Horatio Alger type, hard working, resourceful and modestly ambitious. And, he does exactly what he promises.
For example, before she left for school, Noah has promised Allie that he would purchase and rebuild a dilapidated old mansion from the ground up. He does. Then, after touring the beautifully restored home, Noah takes Allie on a romantic boat ride through a secluded pond filled with white ducks. Then it rains.
At first Allie tries to protect her hair, then looks at Noah, realizing the absurdness of this gesture and laughs out loud. With Noah she can be herself.
Richly textured cinematography frames this timeless love story and unobtrusive musical compositions complement rather than distract.
However, it’s the emotional undercurrents that Director Cassavetes successfully taps into that drive this film. Cassavetes compels the viewer to ponder the very nature of love by testing love’s endurance. Tragedy and loss are brought to bear on the lovers in this film, and we watch to see if that love will endure.
Fortunately for us, the film has an ending you won’t expect.
Gosling as the young Noah and McAdams as young Allie provide solid performances and convincing displays of passion. Garner delivers a superb career performance, guaranteeing him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor next year.
The Notebook is destined to replace an An Affair To Remember as the next must-see chick flick. I predict that, years from now, millions of women will curl up in front of the television screen watching this film with a gal pal and a bowl of popcorn between them and sigh, “God broke the mold when he made Noah.”