As Valentine's Day approaches, the top rental of the weekend will undoubtedly be "The Notebook," a time-sweeping romance about first love that persists through the ages. Starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, with smaller performances by James Garner and Gena Rowlands, "The Notebook" is the quintessential romance story women drool over and the chick flick men try to avoid at all costs.
Gosling, known for choosing darker roles in such pictures as "Murder by Numbers" and "The United States of Leland," delivers a much more mainstream role that his agent must have pushed, for good reason, to show off his looks and charms to the opposite sex. While he isn't bad in the lead, his character is a bit bland at times, especially once he grows up a little bit and has to take on some heavy drama. McAdams is similar in that while she never stumbles on screen, she never gathers speed, either. The result are too characters who are likable but not completely engaging, especially since their romance is only sporadically explained.
Most females will probably disagree with me, but "The Notebook" is not as moving as it tried to be. The story is about as cliché as they come (a rich girl and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks fall in love) and the conflict and arguments that ensue are neither original nor compelling. The ending is way too predictable, mainly thanks to the way the film handles its flashbacks, but most of all the chemistry between the two lovers seems to be more in the screenplay than on screen. Gosling and McAdams try their best to overcome the shortcomings in their chemistry, and again while it isn't bad it isn't good, either. The scenes where they fight just didn't seem to click, and the scenes that were used to develop their relationship seemed a bit forced.
More than anything else, there just seems to be stuff missing from the story. I never completely bought their undying love at the beginning of the movie. After their first day, Garner simply tells us what happens in narration (a screenwriter no-no if you ask me). Perhaps it was this missing link right at the beginning of the movie that threw the rest of it off kilter - the entire movie just didn't feel quite right.
That being said, as cliché romances go, "The Notebook" is mildly entertaining. Even if they don't always click together, Gosling and McAdams are adequate (of course the highlight is you can see a little R-rated McAdams in the deleted scenes) and their characters likable. For the guys, if you want to get laid this weekend just pop this baby in, eat a lot of popcorn as you wait for the movie to run its course, and then make your move. A lot of women are gullible to this kind of film, and that is the audience "The Notebook" was aiming for.
"The Notebook" is not a great film by any means, but it serves its purpose and is guaranteed to make women cry across the globe. For us guys, the best case scenario is it makes our dates, girlfriends or wives emotionally vulnerable.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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