A review of “The Notebook” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for mild sexuality

Run Time: 2 hours, 1 minute

 

 

The premise screams tear-jerker, a genuine three-hankie experience.  In reality The Notebook is soap-opera with a heart.

Ryan Gosling (yum yum) heats up the screen as Noah Calhoun, a small-town mill worker who doesn’t have two dimes to rub together.  What he does have is pluck, and the day he sets eyes on privileged Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) is the day he determines to have her as his own.

Their summer romance is a gossamer fantasy, a young love so powerful it hurts. Simple pleasures circa 1940-something and idyllic coastal sunsets support the romantic scenario.  Naturally Allie’s uppity parents (Joan Allen and David Thornton) are vehemently opposed to the match, and determined to get their daughter as far away from Noah and North Carolina as possible.

A series of melodramatic misunderstandings and parental machinations conspire to force Noah and Allie to lose touch. Pesky WWII interferes as well. Allie becomes engaged to an appropriately wealthy southerner (James Marsden), and all is days of wine and roses.  Until Allie spots a picture of Noah in the paper.

The Notebook is told in parallel plotlines, the young love tale read aloud by spunky senior citizen Duke (James Garner) to a fellow nursing home resident who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s (Gena Rowlands).  The two stories are bound together, the warp and woof of past and present.

The plot is subtly cloying, leaning dramatically towards treacle. Pure emotion mixes with florid overstatement for an uneven narrative flow. But the performances, particularly the youngsters’, manage to turn a potential sow’s ear into a sweet silk purse. 

Gosling, in a rare turn as a nice guy, positively aches with the fury of his love and loss. McAdams imbues Allie with sparkly warmth and the unflagging ardor of youth.  Allen digs deep into her best bitch mode.

Yes, it’s based on yet another mawkish bodice-ripper by Nicholas Sparks (remember Message in a Bottle?). Okay, it’s got Hallmark Card written all over it. But The Notebook manages to touch a chord, even if it’s a minor one.