The Notebook Nick Cassavetes

A "sleeper hit" is a film that opens under the radar but then holds up strongly, making a decent pile of cash by its finale. There's usually a reason for this occurring. Last year, examples included Napoleon Dynamite (which was uniquely hysterical) and Mean Girls (which was incredibly clever). But the most successful "sleeper hit" of 2004 was Nick Cassavetes's adaptation of Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook. Opening with just $13 million, the love story remained a popular choice amongst filmgoers throughout the summer and ended up with a highly respectable $81 million. Highly respectable considering it only cost $30 million to make and had little star power. Why did this happen? In all honesty, the answer remains unclear. The Notebook follows the incredibly clichéd story of Allie (Mean Girls' Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling). The story is narrated in the present-day by an elderly man (James Garner) who's reading to an Alzheimer's patient (Gena Rowlands). As their relationship continues, Allie and Noah go through numerous predictable obstacles and director Cassavetes tries to manipulate the audience into caring. But the story simply borrows from every similar film that came before it and the only things saving it from disaster are the wonderfully inspired performances of McAdams and Gosling, who are destined for bigger and better things. The DVD explores McAdams and Gosling's status as "finds" (though it's arguable that it was Mean Girls and The Believer that deserve this title) in an interesting featurette. There are also relatively boring deleted scenes, an overly self-praising commentary by Sparks and Cassavetes, and three additional featurettes, including "Nicholas Sparks: A Simple Story, Well Told." The Notebook is a simple story and though it could be argued that it's well told, one cannot help but notice it's been "well told" dozens of times. Perhaps the general public is simply starved for a conventional romance. But one would hope they could simply get their fix renting old greats or looking to less mainstream examples (go rent Before Sunset, which actually deserved Notebook's sleeper romance status). (Alliance Atlantis)