The Notebook

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

At the start of the film, we meet an older woman, Allie Calhoun (Gena Rowlands), living in a retirement hospice. Every day Allie is accompanied by her friend Duke (James Garner), who reads her a story from what is known as “The Notebook.” As Duke reads the story to her, the audience is taken back in time, all the way back into the 1940s. It is here that the love story begins, as we meet a very young, spoiled, rich mommy-and-daddy’s girl named Allie (Rachel McAdams). There are the obvious clich├ęs to the tale because she is to find and marry a man of wealth. Of course, this brings us to the “Romeo and Juliet” theme as we meet a very poor, lumber mill worker named Noah (Ryan Gosling). Noah is neither subtle nor graceful about making his intentions known for Allie. He simply never gives up until she falls for him. Of course, Allie’s mother will not tolerate their love for one another and takes Allie back to New York.

Eventually, Noah goes off to fight in WWII, while Allie finds a new love by the name of Lon Hammond (James Marsden). Within no time, Allie and Lon are engaged to be married. However, once Allie sees a picture in the newspaper of her past lover, Noah, she finds the urge to go see him once more before she ties the knot. As you can imagine, and it’s quite obvious, we are headed down the path of the “love triangle.” It’s kind of ironic how we have the story of a wealthy girl getting ready to marry a wealthy man. Then out of nowhere, she decides to rekindle her affection for Noah. Allie is now forced to choose between the two gentlemen, and this is where the story gets all too familiar. Can anyone say, “Sweet Home Alabama”? And I say that because this movie was filmed in the South, of all places. Nevertheless, “The Notebook” carries out this theme in a far more charming and heartfelt presentation than many other films of its kind.

The relationship between Noah and Allie is played in a boy-meets-brat fashion, and, for the most part, it works very well. I enjoyed Noah’s charming ways of winning Allies’ heart. Aside from saying that many of these maneuvers were insane but clever, it simply added to the delight of the movie. However, as Noah and Allie’s bond progresses, we see them become more aggressive towards one another, and they constantly fight like cats and dogs. They can’t manage to get along on a day-to-day basis, but, at the end of the day, they are madly in love with each other. It is here that the film paints the picture of “opposites attract.” The film makes the loved ones look as though they can’t stand each other, yet this is what makes the relationship work so well. In other words, they fight too much; therefore, they are meant to be together. I’d like to know who made up that rule. It’s funny, but I remember having a relationship like that, and five-years later, it got me a divorce.

“The Notebook” also brings up a lot of important issues that are worthy of good discussion. Unfortunately, I can’t get into those details because it would give away too much. I feel it is best to leave as much to surprise as possible, and this is a film that deserves that respect. I would honestly love to share the true, underlying direction the film takes because it is the most interesting and unique part of the movie. Nevertheless, it is a film that does have a subtle twist, and the problem is that the underlying plot is revealed so early in the film that it is best left as a surprise. However, it is that underlying plot that makes the movie close to being a powerful film.

Overall, the film is a heartwarming tale that reminds us of how special the moments are that we have in our youth. It also presents the message of never giving up and love conquering all, even if it’s a lot of hard work. I can’t say the style of the film is all too original, but it does manage to pull you into the story and keep you curious and interested. There are plenty of delightful moments along with subtle amounts of humor and a good dose of charm. Needless to say, there are also moments that are heartbreaking and difficult to imagine. I commend the filmmakers for giving us a movie that wasn’t afraid to take on new challenges even though the source material had to be like breathing life into an elephant. The style of the movie may lack in originality, but the story is warm and heartfelt enough to make it a solid and satisfying film.

Video: How does it look?

This DVD is a double-sided disc with the fullscreen version of the film on one side and the widescreen 2.35:1 version on the other. The colors on this film are soft and natural, and they look very clean and vivid. The picture is sharp and detailed, yet soft in various scenes. Overall, there’s not a lot to complain about.

Audio: How does it sound?

This DVD comes in English: EX 5.1 surround sound. Don’t worry folks, this is just some fancy name that the fine people of Dolby Labs have came up with. The movie can also be played with English or Spanish subtitles, if desired. The sound quality worked nicely on this disc and managed to keep a great balance in the dynamic range. It’s a dialogue heavy film, so there is plenty of center speaker action. However, when other speakers are needed, the audio comes through clearly and with very good tone.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There are a total of four featurettes on this DVD that include “All in the Family,” a short piece with the director, Nick Cassavetes. A second short feature with novelist Nicholas Sparks, who obviously wrote the story, is called “A Simple Story, Well Told.” I found this one the most delightful of the four. Then there’s a short feature on how they found the Southern location for shooting the film; and the final short piece is “Casting Rachel and Ryan”; believe me, the title says it all. However, this featurette you access on the special-features menu and highlight the word “Cast,” then click “Enter.” In the next menu, you get a bonus as you are able to watch “Casting Rachel and Ryan” and “Rachel McAdams Screen Test.” Yes, it is a feature that is not listed on the keep case. I’d say most of the feature shorts are good enough for one time around, but they lack in any repeat value.

Next on the goodie list are twelve deleted scenes with the option to play a director’s commentary. Not to mention, there is a film audio commentary with the director, Nick Cassavetes, as well, and another film commentary with the writer, Nicholas Sparks. You also get the usual theatrical trailer, plus there is an ad for the movie’s soundtrack.

For you DVD-ROM users, there are a couple more extra features that are also kept top secret from the DVD cover. Plug this disc into a DVD-ROM and you get a completely different menu. Same art concept, but the selection layout is different. You have all the usual hot links to take you to New Line web sites and a link to the movie’s web site, as well. You may also play the movie from this menu, or turn the menu sound off. The two secret extras are an image gallery and a really unique piece on how the film went from script to screen. It’s an interesting feature because on your left you watch the movie and on the right is the actual script to follow. You may also print chapters of the script or print the entire script if so desired. Overall, I’d have to say these are some of the best DVD-ROM features I’ve seen in a long time, and I especially enjoyed the script-to-screen feature.

Disc Scores