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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Notebook

A good, romantic sob story

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 2, 2004 -- “The Notebook” is a captivating romantic sob story adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. While it shares certain epic soap opera tendencies with other films like “The English Patient” (including war and hospital scenes) the story also has a very intimate personal dimension lacking in some epic stories. The film also benefits greatly from the romantic chemistry and electrifying performances of its two young leads.

Veteran actor James Garner, of “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood” stars as Duke, a man who patiently reads a romantic story from a notebook to an Alzheimer's patient, played by Gena Rowlands of “Hope Floats.” In flashbacks, we see the story unfold 50 to 60 years ago in the years just before and just after World War II. The story concerns a great love affair between the dirt-poor Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling of “Murder by Numbers”) and a young debutante Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams of “Mean Girls”). The two spend a summer together in the small town of Seabrook, North Carolina. They fall deeply in love, despite the objections of Allie's rich parents. Finally Allie's parents, John and Anne (David Thornton and Joan Allen) separate the two young lovers. Anne is shipped off to college and Noah goes off to fight the war. They lose track of each other. That is not the end of the story, of course.

While this is a very romantic story, it is certainly not a “happily ever after” kind of story. It does not depict love as something which solves all problems. Even though Noah and Allie love each other, they often fight. There are also tragic elements to the story. What this film does depict better than most romances is the transformative power of love. It shows how love can inspire people to be better and to overcome great obstacles, how it can sometimes help people perform miracles, and how it can make people do stupid things, too. Bring your handkerchiefs to this one, you'll need a few. This film is a real emotional powerhouse.

The movie, directed by Nick Cassavetes (“Blow”), son of the legendary indie film director John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands (yes, one of the stars of this film), is maybe a bit too glossy and entertaining to be considered an art house film by some, but I thought it was very moving. Of course some people don't like to be moved, so they complain about being manipulated. This film is moving, not manipulative. The story is solid. The acting is great, too. Gosling and McAdams sizzle with romantic chemistry, and they give standout performances as the two lovers over a period of years. These two actors succeed in making their on-screen romance very believable. Garner, and underrated actor, turns in a fine performance as Duke, and Rowlands is solid, too. Joan Allen also gives a great supporting performance in the role of Allie's mother. The writing (screenplay adaptation by Jan Sardi and Jeremy Leven) is very tight. It mostly flows logically, with only one coincidence and one flight of fancy. This story of first love and love lost is one that just about everyone can relate to. The cinematography by Robert Fraisse (“Seven Years in Tibet”) is also very good. The special effects of birds flying, however, looked pretty fake. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2004 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)