|'both stars clearly deserve the success they've had since and the breaking up of their narrative with that of Garner and Rowlands' own is a genius move which keeps the film's pace moving at an acceptable rate'|
If his roles in The United States Of Leland and The Believer (lets forget about Murder By Numbers) hadn't already made the world sit up and take notice of one Ryan Gosling then 2004's The Notebook can be categorised as the film that did. Similarly, co-star Rachel McAdams had just finished playing Regina George in what is now regarded as the pre-eminent teen comedy of the decade, Mean Girls, although her part in Rob Schneider vehicle Hot Chick a year before had hardly set Tinseltown on fire. The Notebook was the film which brought two of Hollywood's hottest young actors together and provided them with the material to go out and show the world what they could do when they weren't being canon-fodder for Sandra Bullock or bit-part support for Schneider.
Framed by a sweet-natured man (James Garner) reading a story to an Alzheimer's patient (Gena Rowlands), Gosling and McAdams play a pair of star-crossed lovers in the American south during some point in the 1930s. Divided by lines of family wealth, the story Garner reads weaves around their initial courtship and separation, dealing with subtle inflections of loss, of romantic frustration and of the differing fates of the two characters who either choose to accept the course they have been set on or negotiate different outcomes for themselves with the help of some outside help.
Cinematographer Robert Fraisse, production designer Sarah Knowles and costume designer Karyn Wagner are invaluable to director Nick Cassavetes. The sense of period and of the difference between the families of Allie (McAdams) and Noah (Gosling) is tangibly realised through the costuming and set dressing, whilst the visuals are constantly composed of arresting imagery which aspires to do more with the fantastic locations than one would think is strictly necessary in your average or garden Romance. Allie and Noah inhabit a World where privilege is never far away but equally where privilege does little to guarantee your needs or desires. Noah's eventual levitation up the social ranks initially only guarantees a constant supply of beer and a more focused broken heart whilst Allie's family ties seem to guarantee romantic confusion modelled on her overbearing mother (an under-used but ultimately effective Joan Allen). The fairly simplistic story works so well because the World it takes place in is involving and dynamically unpredictable to the last.
Some stunning shots on the waterways of the towns Noah and Allie move in cement The Notebook's aspirations as a film which delivers more than its synopsis, even though one of these scenes (involving McAdams cackling in the rain like The Wicked Witch Of The West) typifies the occasionally twee scripting which blights a few of the more heartfelt moments. Both stars clearly deserve the success they've had since and the breaking up of their narrative with that of Garner and Rowlands' own is a genius move which keeps the film's pace moving at an acceptable rate. Cloying bits of plot (Noah's letter writing) are kept in the background and their relationship develops along a pleasing strand although Cassavetes does apparently forget to include a satisfying end for James Marsden's character, who is written out when it feels appropriate.
Bewitching. Impossible to avoid getting swept up in its beautifully realised creation of the period and, therefore, impossible to avoid getting swept up in the romance.
'a chick flick. Not just any kind of chick flick, but the kind of chick flick your parents would like. James Garner is in it, so you should’ve already figured that out by now' - Cinema Blend, 3/5