Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Running Time: 123 mins
The Notebook is an American film about the passionate story of a poor young man and a rich young woman who fall deeply in love and fight for their love despite being separated due to their social differences in 1940s America.
Well, this is the mother of all chick flicks, and despite being painfully cheesy a lot of the time, it does manage to get quite a lot right. Its two central performances are very strong, the period setting is appropriate and adds to the story, and the structure of the storytelling does allow for some degree of unpredictability. However, this film was unfortunately overridden by a cheesy plot and dialogue, as well as a very generic central story that was pretty predictable.
So, let’s start with the fantastic performances given in this film. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are very strong as a passionate young couple, and their own passionate performances make the love story a whole lot more convincing, as it does seem from the beginning that it’s likely to be a little melodramatic, but Gosling and McAdams bring it back down to earth and show some great chemistry on screen to make this story work better.
What’s also strangely good about this film is the period setting of the 1940s. Normally, period settings are pretty pointless and just used as eye candy to distract from a mediocre story, but the brilliance here is that the context and atmosphere of the 1940s really adds to the story. Initially, you have a real sense of calm in the story, which makes the first part of the film, where the two meet, quite pleasant, whilst the latter stages become more tumultuous in line with the historical context, so the story cleverly mirrors what was actually happening in the world at the time.
Before we go on to the overriding negatives, I’ve got to say that the storytelling method of this film, a series of flashbacks told by our main characters in their old age, was quite interesting. In fact, the old couple’s story was much more interesting, because it wasn’t too much of a generic story, and although it was a bit soppy at times, it was the most unpredictable and intriguing thing of the whole film.
Despite all that, however, it was disappointing to see that this film is largely very cheesy, generic and predictable. Yes, the love story works well because of the performances, but it doesn’t really go beyond that. It’s convincing, but this relationship isn’t intriguing enough to make for more emotional viewing, and the fact that it does largely continue on generic story lines means that it’s completely predictable, and thus just isn’t emotional or exciting enough.
Overall, this gets a 6.8, because despite the strong performances, effective use of setting and interesting structure, the cheesiness and genericness of the principal romance story just isn’t interesting or emotional enough to really achieve what it’s trying to do: make a dramatic and tender romance story for the ages.