Main cast: Ryan Gosling (Noah Calhoun), Rachel McAdams (Allie), James Garner (Duke), Gena Rowlands (Old Allie Calhoun), James Marsden (Lon Hammond), Sam Shepard (Frank Calhoun), David Thornton (John Hamilton), and Joan Allen (Anne Hamilton)
Director: Nick Cassavetes
I have to hand it to this movie: it actually manages to match the Nicholas Sparks novel for every excruciatingly corny moment the book has. The only spot where this movie manages to outdo the book is to actually heat up the teenage horndog romance between seventeen-year olds Noah Calhoun and his future wife Allie. Of course, those “Glory of the 1930s and 1940s!” audience that adore the book would most likely be outraged at the scene where Allie shiveringly clasps the shirtless Noah to hide her breasts from the camera as she breathlessly begs him to teach her how to be a woman.
Yes, The Notebook is filled with cringe-inducing moments that make even me, a romance novel reader, recoil in embarrassment. Noah is the poor kid who works for Allie’s father. It is love at first sight as Noah stalks and forces his attention on Allie. Oops, I think I’m supposed to say “courts her in a manly manner reminiscent of the good old days when men are men”. He’s poor but he is noble and representative of the all-American spirit of the self-made man. Predictably, after nearly taking Allie’s hymen – or maybe he did, I’m never sure – he decides that he’s not good enough for her and they must let fate take its course – or something. He enlists when World War 2 happens – after all, our all-American hero will always do his Duty – while writing letters to Allie. Why would he expect his letters to reach Allie when it’s clear that her parents dislike him I will never know. Maybe intelligence doesn’t factor when it comes to this movie’s definition of the Great American Male.
Allie, who has no say whatsoever in her life, is of course virtuous and feminine enough to become a volunteer nurse – a good American woman takes care of menfolk for free – and she meets Lon Hammond, a soldier with pedigree her parents can approve. In case I confuse for a moment that rich people can be good people, James Marsden plays the cartoonishly snobby Lon with an accent that is more Daffy Duck than human. But Noah comes back into her life, so what can poor Allie do? Or rather, since Allie is a wonderful all-American woman who can’t make her own decisions, can she cope with the cards her life deals her?
This movie is utterly cloying in its contrived panderings to mawkish sentimentality. It is a pity because Ryan Gosling has a vivacious and mischievous demeanor that is ill-suited for this role. His Noah Calhoun is not the kind of kid who will hold a young lady’s hand – his mischievous smile and the twinkle in his eyes suggest that he’d more likely seduce her in the backseat of his car before taking her on a wild ride all the way to Mexico. The movie however demands that Noah and Allie become porcelain figurines going through a juvenile soap opera that seems to come scripted from the overheated imagination of a thirteen-year old girl who has yet to experience infatuation but is sure that love is synonymous with useless idiot girls pining away while waiting for the men who make decisions for them to eventually make the right decision just in time for a happily ever after, right before everyone dies in a grand sweeping scene after the declaration of love because it’s more romantic that way. Or something.