I watched The Notebook (2004) several years ago and enjoyed it. But I recently saw it listed as one of the most romantic movies of all time, and that didn’t match my recollection, so I decided to watch it again. The list was right and I was wrong.
What a movie! It is told in a series of flashbacks from the perspective of an old guy, James Garner, and his lifelong love, Gena Rowlands, who does not seem very lovable because of her losing struggle with dementia. Their younger versions are played by the movie’s stars, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.
It took a few minutes into the movie for Gosling to grow on me, but McAdams is fabulous from the get-go. And their relationship is magical. He is poor and humble and she has a status-conscious rich family. The essence of the movie is encapsulated in this line from old-guy Garner:
- “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.”
Although the storyline might seem predictable, it is actually nuanced with excellent performances and characters played by McAdams’s mother, Joan Allen, and dad, David Thornton, plus McAdam’s competing beau, James Marsden. By contrast, Sam Shepard as Gosling’s dad, and Kevin Connolly as Gosling’s best friend, are mere fillers.
I’ve blogged recently about a four-pronged approach to life (head, heart, body, and soul), and Garner’s sole focus on the love of his life is not consistent with that. But in this classic romance movie, it works. The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at only 52%, but the audience score is 85%. I like it even better than the audience and give it four stars.