Published Jul 01, 2004At one point during The Notebook, Gena Rowlands' character turns to James Garner's while he is reading from the book named in the film's title and comments: "This is a good story, but I think I've heard it before." This is the one time during this "epic love story" that the audience actually relates to one of the characters. Adapted from Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel, The Notebook follows the irritatingly tragic and unrealistic relationship between Allie (Mean Girls' Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) in 1940s America. The story is narrated in the present-day by an elderly gentleman (Garner) who's reading to an Alzheimer's patient (Rowlands). As their courtship progresses, Allie and Noah endure numerous predictable obstacles (her parents disapprove, he goes to war, etc.) that one comes to expect from a genre of film that has little left to say. Through it all, however, the film reinforces time and time again that a love as strong as theirs can survive anything that is thrown at them.
While many films have proven successful, both commercially and critically, by salvaging this formula time and time again (Titanic, Shakespeare in Love), The Notebook lacks the cinematic drive those films seemed to possess. Director Nick Cassavetes (son of Rowlands and late director John Cassavetes) doesn't seem to know what to do with the material. This is not helped by the weak and unimaginative script, adapted by Jan Sardi, or the multitude of "respected" veteran actors (Garner, Rowlands, Joan Allen, Sam Shepard) who all seem uninspired in their clichéd roles. Yet the film does manage to give a few moments of decency, care of relative newcomers Gosling and McAdams (both Southern Ontario natives), who have wonderful chemistry together and seem determined to rise above the material that is, quite obviously, below them. (New Line/Alliance Atlantis)