The Notebook (Cassavetes, 2004)

That’s right.  I’m trying to exercise my sentimental side (which is grossly overweight).

I imagine everyone kind of knows the plot of this movie.  Boy (Noah, played by Ryan Gosling), meets Girl (Allie, played by Rachel McAdams).  Her parents (played by Joan Allen and an awesomely mustachioed Sam Shepherd) dislike him.  They break up.  Girl meets another Guy (Lon, played by James Marsden), but then Boy comes back into her life.

The first thing to note about this movie is the score.  It’s awful.  Overwrought, overdramatic, over-romantic…just over everything.  It’s by Aaron Zigman, who has a lot of credits to his name, none of which I like.

The plotting is of course contrived, and director Nick Cassavetes doesn’t do all that much of interest with his camera.  There are plenty of cranes and lots of POV shots.  Which leads me to a question: do romances and horror films have the most POV shots of any genre?  Certainly more than a comedy.  I’d guess more than a thriller or a Western or War film.  If that’s the case, it’s pretty funny that the two genres most at odds with one another would be the most likely to want to get inside of a character’s head.  Think about it though.  Horror films use the POV to, among other things, put you in the place of danger, move the frame with the characters eyes so you are surprised at things jumping out at the same time they are, and to make you the killer.  Romances use the POV to, among other things, put you as the male gazing at the female, female gazing at the male, male gazing at the male or female gazing at the female (in short, to look longingly).  Romances also use the POV nostalgically.  I’ll explain:

The Notebook is told through flashback structure where James Garner is reading the story of Noah and Allie to Gena Rowlands in a nursing home.  Garner’s character (Duke) is caring and gentle.  Rowlands is curious and slow-moving.  We frequently get Garner’s POV of Rowlands.  This serves to to do the aforementioned (look longingly), but also, when the purpose of the flashback is revealed (SPOILER) – Garner is Noah and Rowlands is Allie, years later, she with Alzheimer’s – the POV also serves to compare with young Noah’s gaze at young Allie.  Romances are frequently structures around nostalgia, and the present POV in here, looking both to present and past, works perfectly in that milieu.

Anywho…maybe they should remake The Notebook as a horror film.

The performances in here are strong, and there are some nicely lit sunset shots on the water.  It’s difficult for me to really latch onto a film like this.  It’s predictable and doesn’t seem to care that it is (meaning, it doesn’t really try to hide the outcome, and genre conventions, which this certainly adheres to, tell us that it won’t veer off-course).  It’s predictability isn’t really a hindrance – the romantic and tear-jerker moments are what this film is made for, not any true suspense.  Sure it’s timeless love and all that good stuff, but from a filmmaking perspective it’s pretty standard stuff.




About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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5 Responses to The Notebook (Cassavetes, 2004)

  1. Terri says:

    That’s right. These two things just bother the hell out of Neal: 1) an unoriginal and misused score 2) romance comedies…

    “Maybe they should remake The Notebook as a horror film” – Ohh this is the funniest and most absurd thing I haven’t heard in a while. I truly appreciate your great sense of humor, sarcasm and insights.

    Although the film is predictable, cliche and contrived, it still has some… how to say it… Well, never mind, thanks for visiting the sentimental side – the spaceship back to the dark side is now boarding…

    • dcpfilm says:

      Ha! I do right about music a lot, don’t I? Hmmm…maybe that’s unintentional. I don’t dislike romantic comedies. I just tend to dislike modern romantic comedies.

      Yes….time to return to the dark side (although maybe not…I just watched Alfie).

  2. Terri says:

    The modern Jude Law version? Wait, how did you italicize the word ‘modern’? Mine needs to be emphasized too!

    Why Alfie? Did you just change your taste from the sometimes bad, sometimes caring American portrait to the always bad British portrait? Ahaa! Is Alfie a romantic comedy? It’s more like a romantic ‘tragedy’ to me somehow… Better than The Notebook though.

  3. Terri says:

    Okie, I just refreshed the page… Not the MODERN one…

    • dcpfilm says:

      Ha! I’ve never seen the modern one, actually. Though I feel like Jude Law takes on a lot of lesser remakes – Alfie, Sleuth, All The King’s Men…isn’t Repo Men kind of a remake of Repo: The Genetic Opera?

      Agreed with your assessment – it’s definitely a tragic film. I don’t love the original Alfie, but it has its moments. One that I didn’t mention (if you’ve seen it): the scene with the abortionist is kind of chilling. He’s all business and then immediately, at the sight of money, all greed.

      No idea how to do the italics here either.

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