The Notebook

It's amazing what makeup can do. And it's amazing how beautiful Rachel McAdams is. This is her largest role to date, after playing the antagonist in Mean Girls, and comic relief in The Hot Chick. In these films, she was supposed to look bitchy or really strange (a man living in a woman's body). This means that she couldn't outshine the stars of those films, yet it's still obvious she looks great. Here, she is absolutely radiant in a series of vintage clothes in an otherwise unremarkable movie. The Notebook is by the same author that wrote such sap as Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember. It is very predictable, very sappy, and most surprisingly, quite effective at some points. Not effective enough to set it apart, but just enough to make it bearable to sit through.

Duke (James Garner, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Atlantis: The Lost Empire) narrates the story. He is reading a notebook to a woman afflicted with Alzheimer’s (Gena Rowlands, Taking Lives, Playing By Heart). The Notebook doesn't really say much about these two people initially, and it's not clear if director Nick Cassavetes (John Q., She's So Lovely) is trying to hide their identities, but it becomes blatantly obvious very shortly who these people are. In the story, Allie Nelson (McAdams) and Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling, The United States of Leland, Murder By Numbers) fall in love. Leland works in the lumberyard, and Allie and her very rich family are spending the summer in North Carolina when they meet. They fall quickly in love, much to the dismay of Allie's mother Anne (Joan Allen, The Contender, When the Sky Falls). She is of the "other side of the tracks' mentality, and successfully separates them.

There are two sequences that really work in The Notebook. The first is the initial blossoming of love between Allie and Noah. There is something so sweet and pure in Jan Sardi's (Love's Brother, Shine) adaptation and Jeremy Leven's (Alex and Emma, The Legend of Bagger Vance) screenplay. Here are two young people getting to know each other and falling deeply in love against the beautiful backdrop of North Carolina, which is filmed so exquisitely that it deserves a place in the credits. McAdams is a delight to watch, and Gosling's distant and introverted quality works to his advantage here. Noah is unsure of many things, but knows that he loves Allie. Once the story gets moving, their relationship turns a little more conventional, and this initial magic is gone. The second sequence that works occurs about halfway into the film, where Garner and Rowlands (Cassavetes is her son) share screen time. There is something very touching about how much Duke loves this woman, and it is profoundly sad that her condition doesn't allow her to return his love.

Then, the story intrudes and everything turns sappy. After a big fight, Allie returns home, but both soon realize that they want each other. Noah writes to Allie every day, but Anne intercepts the letters. The years move on, and World War II intrudes. Noah goes off to Europe, and Allie volunteers as a nurse, where she meets the dashing Lon Hammond (James Marsden, X2: X-Men United, Zoolander). The two are preparing to marry just as Noah reenters Allie's life, awakening long dormant emotions in both of them. Can anybody guess what is going to happen? Or who Allie will ultimately choose?

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 1 minute, Rated PG-13 for some sexuality.

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