Notes on a Scandal Richard Eyre

With stunning performances from Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal is a taut drama that explores the devastating effects of desolation on the moral limits of two women. Based on Zöe Heller’s novel, the film chronicles the perils of obsession when Dench’s Barbara becomes enamoured with Blanchett’s Sheba after the two become colleagues at a school. The "notes” in question consist of Barbara’s melodramatic personal journals, which also serve as narration. She passes judgements on those around her and eventually focuses on Sheba, lustily describing a curiosity with the pretty, new art teacher with sadness in her eyes. They soon bond over their boredom with conventional lifestyles and a mutual recognition of the lingering longing for excitement. When Barbara later stumbles upon Sheba performing oral sex on a 15-year-old student named Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson) at the school, she uses the discovery of the illicit affair to blackmail Sheba into a closer friendship, which works, up to a point. Soon enough, Barbara’s delusion gets the better of her and, as she and Sheba lose control, the film explodes with emotion. In "The Story of Two Obsessions” featurette, director Richard Eyre insists that his job was a simple one thanks to the methodical practices of his cast. In turn, Dench, Blanchett and the great Bill Nigy praise one another to the stars, each suggesting that one performer or the other is amongst the finest acting today. More than backslapping, there’s truth in the idea that the difficult story of Notes on a Scandal brought out the very best and arguably, memorable performances from these acclaimed actors. With shades of Hitchcock (notably Strangers on a Train), Notes on a Scandal is a riveting, gracefully rendered character study. Plus: director commentary, webisodes, trailer, more. (Fox)