Thursday, September 09, 2004

Is it movie marathon week? It must be because The Notebook is the third movie I've watched with the family this week and such a wonderful movie it is. Rare is the film where expectations are met after being built up to great heights by a random movie trailer and two movie reviews. Might I also give notice that I'm also quite picky with tearjerker movies so giving high marks to this movie is quite a mean feat, so there.

Story starts at a stately riverside mansion that functions as a home for the elderly, in comes Duke (James Garner), an spritely elderly gentleman asking permission to spend time with an elderly woman (Gena Rowlands) to read her a story. It's immediately apparent that they have been doing this for quite some time now but owing to the woman's delibitating loss of memory to Alzheimer's Disease, Duke patiently rereads the story to her everyday. That story is about the love story of two young lovers, Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams), set in the early 1940s when they first met each other in a town carnival. It was a case of love at first sight for seventeen year old Noah and immediately set to woo Allie in rather unorthodox ways. Finding love was the farthest thing from Allie's mind since she and her parents were only vacationing there for the summer but love found her and it stuck real fast. He got through her defenses after only one date with his happy-go-lucky attitude but mostly through sheer persistence. They would spend summer days and nights learning how to drive, swimming at the 'ol swimming hole, dancing at small gatherings, getting to know Noah's dad, Frank (Sam Shepard), spending time at the beach, and just talking. Way before the summer ended, the two young souls have bonded indeed. One night Noah showed Allie his dream, a decripit 200 year old riverside plantation mansion that Noah wants to purchase and restore to its former glory. But coming from opposite sides of the social strata things soon started to unravel. Allie's socialite mother thinks she's had enough and demanded that the entire family cut off their summer vacation short and go back to New York. This devastates Allie but she had no choice but to oblige. World War II soon erupts and though Noah was among those drafted to fight the war overseas he never forgot Allie and has started writing his raison d'être one letter a day. The problem was, these letters were intercepted by Allie's mom, making her believe that Noah had moved on with his life.

Then one time in one of her volunteer work in the hospital, a gravely wounded soldier named Lon Hammond (James Marsden) introduced himself to her and asked for a date once he gets better. Allie was charmed with Lon's forwardness and half-heartedly said yes. After the war, he re-introduced himself to her and she was floored with what she saw: a decorated soldier who not only was handsome, but was also rich, charming, and kind-hearted; She forgot about Noah from that moment on. Meanwhile, Noah also arrives from the war and comes home to a big surprise, his father had sold off their property for his son to be able to start rebuilding the plantation mansion he has set his heart on. Noah's father died not long after and somewhat bitter with the nasty turn of events, he poured all his time and energy on remodelling the mansion all by himself. He managed to do a very good job out of it that news spread far and wide about its reputation. A gaggle of rich folks arrived each offering a huge sum of money to buy the house from his hands. But he wouldn't sell the house and turned each and every buyer off with the sight of his shotgun. News of the house eventually reached the papers who decided to cover it and release a news item of it the same paper that Lon and Allie's engagement was announced. When she decided to visit Noah one last time to get some answers before closing this chapter of her life, she never thought that it would rekindle old feelings leading to the continuation of the best and worst days of her life.

Like I said earlier all expectations were met even after it sent soaring up by different reviews that I've read. Of course it's not without its usual share of critics and naysayers, but who cares right? These criticisms usually center around the acting abilities of some of the lead actors and a little of the secondary characters. Said portrayals of range from wooden acting to stereotypical appearances butpersonally I don't see any of these. Ms. McAdams and Mr. Gosling turned in some very good performances as the lead characters, they managed to convey the right amount of innocence and restrained naughtiness befitting their characters' teenage years during the first half of the movie. Photography of lush scenes showing the beauty of Southern America from picturesque towns to the scenic swamp full of wild ducks was visually stunning. I laud Director Nick Cassavetes handling of the adaptation of Nicholas Spark's novel. The ending came as a big surprise for those of us who haven't read the book. Of course, it may be obvious to some halfway through the movie but then again I'm one of those people who patiently wait for the big ending to be revealed thereby preserving the surprise and base my opinions how that big surprise was handled. In this case I'd say that Director Cassavetes handled it well thereby earning it a place in my video library of great movies.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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