THE NOTEBOOK is an exceptional film, clearly one of the better movies produced within the past few years. Among the many things that makes this movie remarkable is that they very rarely make movies like this anymore -- by "they" I mean Hollywood, independents, anyone and everyone now that the sequel/prequel/retread craze is in full swing. Let me also add that when Hollywood (especially) attempts a project that is steeped in personal, heartfelt human emotions they usually screw it up beyond comprehension.
An example of what I mean is WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, the equivalent of a technicolor pap smear that ranks among the worst movies of all time. Another dud was FORREST GUMP -- the big budget Tom Hanks hanky panky that was so annoyingly retarded in its execution I personally feel everyone responsible should be executed. Both of these diabetic duds were pretentious beyond belief, and so it was with considerable reservation that I rented this filmed adaptation of the best selling book by Nicholas Sparks. I expected Hollywood's equivalence of a "Big Chief" Notebook, or worse. I was very pleasantly surprised; not since the days of Douglas Sirk has an unabashed "weepy" been so beautifully crafted.
Under the skillful direction of Nick Cassavetes, John's son, and with a practically perfect cast, THE NOTEBOOK succeeds in every aspect. Rachel McAdams is brilliant beyond belief as the young Allie Hamilton. Her electric performance sizzles thoughout -- this gal is destined for stardom. And if you happen to be a Gena Davis fan, then God help you. Ms. McAdams' energetic performance will leave you secreting from every orifice of your body. Opposite her is Ryan Gosling, an actor I had not seen before but whose steady, winning performance insures a long career ahead as well. Ryan's skillfully nuanced portrayal of the young Noah is a perfect counterpart to the vivacious Allie -- these young actors capture an on-screen chemistry that is something to behold. Of course, Gena Rowlands (Nick's mom in real life) is excellent, as always, as is James Garner, an actor whose entire body of work remains both solid and underappreciated. Throw in Joan Allen and Sam Shepard and you have a film that is as well cast from top to bottom as MATEWAN -- and I don't say that lightly.
Special mention also must be given to Cinematographer Robert Fraisse, whose beautiful camera work provides a striking, saturated "look" that is both rich and appropriate for this idealized story of love, of love lost and of love refound in stunningly scenic South Carolina.
On your list of films to rent in the days ahead I urge you to pencil in THE NOTEBOOK...and be sure to have a full box of Kleenex handy. If you are like me, you'll feel as dehydrated as an Egyptian mummy when the closing credits appear.