Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden, Joan Allen, Sam Shepherd
Plot: Noah (Gosling) is a lost soul, still mourning after breaking up with the love of his life, Allie (McAdams), who is engaged to a loving fiancé.
Notebook didn’t really do much for me. That is not a dig at the romance genre, or even Nicholas Sparks. As far as rom-coms go, I thought it was a little too slow and try-hard.
I actually don’t mind Nicholas Sparks as an author. I have read three of his books, including this one, and as far as a quick, easy read goes, I thought Dear John was a really good novel. ‘The Notebook’ just wasn’t in the same league, meaning that this film got off onto the back-foot for me, before I even sat down to watch it. It tells the story about a couple, madly in love, but they end up getting separated. Allie’s parents are rich and think that Noah’s working class background isn’t good enough for them. When Allie moves away, Noah is left all alone in his father’s crumbling house. He ends up going to war and when he returns from duty, he sets his mind to fixing up that house. All the while, he is left still in love with Allie, the girl of his dreams. Allie isn’t as upset over the break-up, finding herself a good-looking and successful military officer to marry. However, as the days count down to the big wedding, she begins to look back on her past and finds herself missing Noah. Meanwhile, an elderly couple are in a retirement home and have somehow got themselves the notebook with this story written down in it and like listening to it over and over.
In my opinion, ‘Dear John’ and ‘Walk to Remember’ (the other Sparks book), had more of a hook to them. In those books, we are introduced to a loving couple that have a very genuine problem, driving them apart. It makes the characters easy to feel for, whereas Noah and Allie aren’t in the same league of interesting. This book and film are all about dwelling in the past and thinking of lost love, which sadly puts it into the realm of very generic love stories. Even the upper class family taking their daughter away from the country boy has been done so many times before. I understand why this film was made, because somehow this is the most loved Nicholas Sparks book. For me, the best thing about the story, and in some ways the saving grace of the movie, is the elderly couple who seem to be in a totally different movie. It doesn’t make sense at first, but their relationship is much deeper and intriguing. Most people will see the connection from a mile off, but it doesn’t change the fact that those few scenes are actually rather enjoyable.
Another way the Notebook falls down is the actual leads. In a rom-com, the most important aspect is making the audience fall in love with the characters, at the same time as they do. Jumping to the TV show ‘Castle’, their relationship connects with us more, because we love Richard Castle and Kate Beckett to pieces. It is easy to see to see why they, or any other TV or movie couple you can’t help but adore, love each other, because how could they not? I never got that with Noah and Allie. That is nothing against Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams, because acting-wise, no one really steps out of line. Noah’s problem is that his character is so mopey. I guess, women might find some charm in the idea that he is sensitive enough to care about this woman all this years after they split, but other than that, he has very little charisma and is fairly miserable for the second half of the movie. When you compare Noah to Allie’s new lover, Noah wouldn’t even register as competition in my eyes. McAdams plays it as standard Rachel McAdams, so I am guessing I am in the minority about not being won over so easily with her. I still think she needed more of a spark to make the viewers understand how Noah can be so distraught over her loss.
The Notebook, as a film, isn’t bad. In fact, I think it is quite well made. Sometimes, the romance factor gets overplayed (Cassavetes changes the ending of the book, for added ‘mushiness’), but otherwise, I cannot fault the direction. I just think that the story is one of Sparks’ weaker creations, so when I compare it to ‘Dear John’, this movie pales when held up against it. However, it does win points for this most awkward, and accidentally comical, sex scene in the history of cinema.
Final Verdict: Despite the crew trying really hard, it is difficult to buy into the romance factor of ‘The Notebook’. One of the weaker Nicholas Sparks adaptions.