Movie Review: "The Notebook" (2004)

Like Curling Up With a Good Book

© New Line

I have heard people refer to The Notebook, based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks, as a cheesy "chick flick" (a label very few of my colleagues can stand because of its negative connotation) and as predictable and sappy. Yes, The Notebook doesn’t exactly take a brain surgeon to guess how the story is going to play out. Yes, it does unapologetically play on your emotions, practically begging you to squeeze out a few tears.

But here is why I enjoyed The Notebook: it is a movie you can relax and let flow over you. It is also one of the few films out there that tells a complete story. There is a well-defined beginning, middle, and end.

The Notebook is the story of a boy from the poor side of the tracks who – predictably – falls for a beautiful, rich girl. What is not so predictable is how far he’ll go to prove they were meant to be together.

Rachel McAdams stars as sheltered Southern Belle, Allie Hamilton. Allie pays a visit to Seabrook, North Carolina to see her family and while there, Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) works his "small-town boy" charms on her. Despite disparate backgrounds, the two find they’ve got a lot in common, including a zest for life - and their need to drive each other crazy. Over the span of a hot North Carolina summer, Allie and Noah fall passionately in love.

But all doesn’t go smoothly for the financially mismatched pair of lovebirds.

Allie’s mom puts the kibosh on their relationship, sending Allie off to school and out of Noah’s reach. Still Noah persists until finally, seven long years later, Allie returns to Seabrook and must choose between her rich, handsome fiancée (James Marsden) and her first love, the equally handsome, but obviously not-so-wealthy, Noah.

The filmmakers got it right when they chose Gosling, McAdams, Marsden, James Garner and Gena Rowlands. Each of these actors is pitch-perfect and brings a freshness to these characters. Even though we’ve seen the same types of characters in movies before, these actors makes them feel interesting and unique.

The Notebook is a gentle romantic tale in the midst of blockbuster action films and goofball comedies. It could be argued that releasing it in mid-June is counter-programming at its best, giving adults who don’t want their senses assailed by CGI special effects in blockbusters a real choice at the box office. But you have to wonder if The Notebook would have stood a better chance of finding the right audience had it been released later in the year, when moviegoers are really ready for more intense storytelling, than during the crowded summer months (Note: In the end, The Notebook became a box office hit. It grossed $81 million at the U.S. box office on a $29 million budget).

The Notebook isn’t just a film for women. It’s a movie for anyone who wants to get lost in a beautiful story, and for anyone who believes romance is still alive on film.

GRADE: B+

The Notebook was directed by Nick Cassavetes.

 The screenplay was written by Jeremy Leven, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. It is rated PG-13 for some sexuality.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick