John Cassavetes became one of the most respected American film-makers by defying conventions of mainstream Hollywood. His son Nick, on the other hand, embraces those very conventions in his 2004 melodrama The Notebook.
The plot of the film, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, begins in a nursing home where the old gentleman named Duke (played by James Garner) comes to visit Allie (played by Gena Rowlands), an old lady suffering from Alzheimer Disease. He begins to read the story about two lovers that met in small Southern town during Summer 1940. Noah Calhoun (played by Ryan Gossling) in charming but impoverished labourer while Allie (played by Rachel McAdams) is a daughter of wealthy aristocratic family. Two of them fall madly in love, but Allie’s parents are disapproving and they make sure that a summer fling remains a summer fling by preventing Allie from receiving Noah’s letters. Heart-broken Noah, after serving in WW2, builds his dream home. Allie, who in the meantime got engaged to rich and charming Lon Hammond (played by James Marsden), accidentally hears about it and decides to see her beloved Noah once more.
The Notebook is one of those films Hollywood used to make in its golden days – unashamedly manipulative melodrama accompanied with beautiful cinematography, impressive sights, likeable sounds and impressive amount of period details. Technically speaking, The Notebook is a successful film. The acting is more than passable although Gossling and McAdams, simply because they are younger and less experienced, have less chemistry than veterans Garner and Rowlands. On the other hand, script by Jeremy Leven and Jan Sardi leaves much to be desired. It is too simplistic, all the plot twists are predictable while the amount of clichés almost turn The Notebook into self-parody. Whether someone can enjoy The Notebook or not depends much of the mood in which the viewers find themselves. While some might enjoy it as a flawed but nevertheless stylish tear-jerker, others, especially those afflicted with cynicism, are likely to view it as nothing more than just another piece of Hollywood mediocrity.
RATING: 5/10 (++)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on March 19th 2005)
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