By Peter Lowry | June 28, 2004

The latest movie to be adapted by novelist Nicholas Sparks is “The Notebook”, brought to the screen by director Nick Cassavetes (John Q), and brought to life through a cast that takes what usually would have been a sub-par script and predictable clichés and turns it into something beautiful and unforgettable. It’s a touching film that, while not going anywhere new, treads softly along like two young lovers walking on the beach for the millionth time together. That kind of familiarity is as comfy as an old shoe, providing the audience with an easy going feel that is hard to resist to get caught up in.

This film clearly begins and ends with its cast, which basically carried this film on its back the entire time. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are surprisingly exceptional as the young couple that shares a summer fling, which if course later blooms into the real thing. We are captivated by the young kids as they try their best to fight the usual clichés of rich snotty parents and their expectations of their daughter to marry someone well off rather than the poor boy who she is in love with. While we’ve all seen this done a million times, the film’s lack of originality is made up for in spades by the story’s sincerity and patience. The fact that it doesn’t try to ram the predictable romance down everyone’s throat was a nice change as we were allowed to relax and just enjoy the ride as opposed to waiting for another shoe (or hammer) to drop.

Gosling and especially McAdams give all-star performances, doing just enough to hand the reins over to the pros, who take what’s left of the film and finish the audience off with some touching scenes that don’t leave a dry eye in the house. James Garner was just enough to make the film work as his simple and elegant style gave a touch of class. His soft narration provided the audience a nice little breather, as well as some depth to the notebook as it’s a character in itself, containing the keys to two people’s history and a romance that didn’t deserve to be forgotten. And even though many scenes may look trite in narrative, the emotions they conjure are surprising and very authentic. The audience was sniffling and even sobbing a great deal at the very end. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an audience weep this openly at a movie. You could have sworn they were watching “Schindler’s List”.

Another element that simply romances the audience into liking this movie was its direction and especially its cinematography. Nick Cassavetes and Robert Fraisse give us one spectacular shot after another, giving us breathtaking shots of what normally wouldn’t be considered that great to begin with. One particular scene that was just flat out brilliant was shot in a river, taken with hundreds of ducks surrounding a boat that is slowly passing through. What looked like a scary amount of floating snappers looked elegant and beautiful, creating a magical movie moment that was not lost on its audience. Shots like this made what usually would have been a cheesy chick flick something more special and worth checking out.

While I personally liked this film, I’m sure it may some moviegoers the wrong way. Many scenes tend to drag at times and were desperately in need of editing. This film was over two hours long, but I could see at least twenty minutes that could have been cut out that wouldn’t have made any difference in the final product. I am also sure that many people who are very cynical at heart will not be able to get past the usual clichés to enjoy the acting and spirit of the film. If you’re the kind of person who is too picky and can’t stand even the smallest bit of “seen that, been there” moments… then you might want to pass on this film, because its filled to the nuts with stuff like that. On the surface, this movie is just the same old, same old… but it can’t be written off as just another tearjerker. Judging from the reaction from the crowd when it was all over, I say word of mouth for this film will be very good.

Overall, “The Notebook” is a surprisingly good film that manages to succeed where many other “chick flick” like romances fail. Despite the obvious clichés and predictable story lines, the movie manages to work because the actors made it work. Combined with some impressive camera work and direction, it makes for a very enjoyable day at the movies.

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