Movie Review: the Notebook

A romantic drama film does not create the ooh-aah response from me that movies of more classic proportions, i.e.

The Man Who Would be King, or more complex animated films such as WALL-E will elicit.
But it can be absorbing and every bit as creative in its own way through the storyline and acting.

I liked The Notebook (PG-13, 2004) for its message of enduring love and for the way that it was chronicled in the book that is being read aloud, for the hint of mystery that envelops the characters, and for the fine performances by all of the actors in this film. It was based on a Nicholas Sparks novel and is set in Seabrook Island, South Carolina, a quaint seaside community where the wealthy spend their summers and their children become acquainted with the local teens.

James Garner was my favorite actor in this film. He has always been a class act in my book and his portrayal of the narrator showed that he has not lost his quiet charm even though he has advanced in years since I began following him in the days of Maverick and the Rockford Files. In years prior to the making of this film he had both knees surgically replaced (2000) as well as having undergone quintuple bypass heart surgery (1988). This was a perfect low-key role for him, and he did it proud!

The plot

The film begins in a nursing home, with Duke (James Garner) reading a book aloud to a fellow patient, played by Gena Rowlands. We aren’t privy at first to her identity or the reasoning behind this daily ritual of reading, but it isn’t too hard to begin guessing who and why (at least partially!)

The stories that he reads aloud chronicle how local teenager Noah (Ryan Gosling) and wealthy summer resident Allie (Rachel McAdams) first meet, have a summer romance, break-up and go their separate ways. We return to scenes from the nursing home periodically and then back to the story of Noah and Allie as Noah enlists, does duty overseas in World War II and they both form different romantic attachments with Allie getting engaged to her new love interest.

It is near the end of the movie that we learn whether or not Noah and Allie will get back together again. At that time the mystery behind the characters is revealed and we can finally tie all of the loose pieces together before the touching conclusion is reached.

My conclusion

Although my age (senior citizen) and background makes me especially partial to this film, there is something for all ages to enjoy since most of the action of the movie revolves not around the elderly patients but with young Noah and Allie and their whirlwind romance(s) during their late teens and early twenties. There is good character development; I felt a real attachment to these young people and grew to like them personally before the film was over. This film would probably skew more toward a female audience.

This is a solid film in my estimation and is romantic, sentimental and emotional. It held my attention; it had a good mix of humor and drama; I cared about the actors and the mystery angle added an interesting dimension. The identity of the elderly lady became apparent very quickly, but I was uncertain about who Duke really was up until the end of the film. I also was surprised by the final scenes of the movie.

I would rate The Notebook at maybe 3.8 to 4 out of 5. It has a rating of PG-13 for some sexuality (quite a few love scenes). Netflix gives it a common sense rating for kids 14+, but I make no age recommendation one way or another as that is up to parents to decide.

Other movie reviews by R.C. Johnson: Slumdog Millionaire; Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog; WALL-E; Gran Torino; The Man Who Would Be King, The Princess Bride; The Mission; Top Gun; Crocodile Dundee; Maid to Order; Beaches; The Indian in the Cupboard; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Witness; The Gods Must Be Crazy; Flywheel, Facing the Giants and Fireproof.

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