Dir: Nick Cassavetes. US.2004. 124mins.
The positioning ofwomen's tearjerker The Notebook by New Line Cinema in the heart of summer blockbuster season may be oneof the more inspired distribution decisions this year. As gentle, lush andsappy as a thousand TV movies but distinguished by sumptuous production valuesand a great cast, The Notebook iscounter-programming par excellence and its story of true love overcoming allobstacles will have women across America sobbing uncontrollably and urgingtheir girlfriends to see it after it opens there on June 25.
Opening figures will besolid, not spectacular, but a long theatrical run is assured fuelled by theadult female crowd who are less opening weekend-driven and more influenced byword-of-mouth. International success may be less assured, because of thedistinct Americana flavour and less jammed summer seasons, althoughEntertainment is opening the picture in the UK this weekend to draw women intotheatres in the final days of the Euro 2004 football championships, and Italianaudiences will lap up the sentiment. Such a well-made item will have a longlife on TV and DVD.
High profile weepies havebeen a staple of Hollywood cinema since the days of Camille and Dark Victory to Kramer Vs Kramer, Terms Of Endearment, Beachesand The Bridges Of Madison County.In the last decade, they have become somewhat of a US TV staple in the HallmarkHall Of Fame US TV slot where stalwart theatrical actors like Glenn Close, GarySinise, Joanne Woodward, Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, James Garner and GenaRowlands star in heartwarming tales of love and family.
As if tailor-made for aHallmark Hall Of Fame movie, The Notebook indeed opens with Garner visiting Rowlands in what is clearly a homefor old age pensioners in a picturesque South Carolina location. To pass thetime, he reads her extracts from a faded notebook.
The story he tells takesplace decades earlier in the town of Seabrook, South Carolina, in the 1940swhen a teenager from an affluent family Allie Hamilton (played by RachelMcAdams), has come to spend the summer with her parents. She meets local millworker Noah Calhoun (Gosling) at a carnival and he subsequently pursues herrelentlessly until she falls in love with him.
Her parents, however, arenot too pleased about the relationship and when they leave Seabrook at the endof the summer, her mother (Joan Allen) decides to block Noah's lettersfrom Allie. He sends over 100 but abandons Allie for lost when he receives noreply and signs up to fight in World War II.
A few years later, Noahreturns to Seabrook where he saves enough to buy the dream mansion he and Alliewere planning to live in. Through a series of circumstances, Allie, who has nowfound out about the letters, comes to learn of his return and although she isengaged to marry a wealthy GI Lon (Marsend), ventures to Seabrook to visit him.
Meanwhile in present day, welearn that Rowlands' character is the aging Allie, has senile dementiaand has completely lost her memory. Garner is in reality her lifelong love andre-reads her the notebook over and over to jog her fading memory for an instantor two. But who did she choose' Noah or Lon'
Based on the bestseller byNicholas Sparks (A Walk To Remember,Message In A Bottle), TheNotebook is premium romantic schlockand confirms director Nick Cassavetes (Rowlands' son) as a specialist inthe genre after John Q in 2002.Lifting the film out of the ordinary are the two young leads - Gosling, afine actor who steps comfortably into leading man shoes here with a passionateturn as the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and McAdams, the ultimatemean girl in Mean Girls, whoseconfident turn as Allie is filled with the radiance and charisma of a futurestar.
Shot in stunning locationsaround Charleston and the Carolina coastlands, it is bathed in the picturepostcard sunshine and moody dusk-light these stories require by Frenchcinematographer Robert Fraisse (Seven Years In Tibet, The Lover).
Prod co: Gran Via Productions
US dist: New Line Cinema
Int'l sales: New Line International(1) 310 854 5811
Exec prods: Toby Emmerich, AvramButch Kaplan
Prods: Mark Johnson, Lynn Harris
Scr: Jeremy Leven, based on thenovel by Nicholas Sparks. Adaptation by Jan Sardi
Cine: Robert Fraisse
Prod des: Sarah Knowles
Ed: Alan Heim
Mus: Aaron Zigman
Main cast: Ryan Gosling, RachelMcAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden, Joan Allen, Sam Shepard,Kevin Connolly