CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

2004 "The Notebook" grows as a Valentine' classic

Some actors you grow up with through the years and these actors seem to be around forever. James Garner always seemed to have been on some television show ("8 Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter," "The Rockford Files,") and was a reliable leading man on the big screen (**Victor/Victoria**, "The Great Escape"). Gena Rowlands made serious dramas ("Women Under the Influence") and as of late, this actress has added dramatic panache to seemingly lightweight movies like "Hope Floats" and "Paulie." It is this audience identification that gives "The Notebook" an emotional punch to the many generations of moviegoers.

Based on best selling Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, "The Notebook" opens with an older man (James Garner) visiting an older women (Gena Rowlands) in an assistive living facility. She has been diagnosed with dementia. As part of her memory therapy, the old man reads a story from a notebook about Allie (Rachel MacAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gossling), two teenagers in rural South Carolina.

Allie is the sparkfire daughter from wealth and priledge. Noah is a hardworking carpenter with big dreams of success. After a romantic evening in an old mansion, Allie is taken back to Charleston by her mother (Joan Allen); so that Allie can date men of wealth and stature. Noah writes her for 365 days, but he does not receive a response from Allie. World War II breaks out and Noah joins Patton’s assault on Berlin. Allie becomes a nurse and meets the man of her mother’s dreams, the wealthy man about town, Lon (James Marsden).

The narrative flashes back and forth between the older couple and the young lovers with vibrancy. You wait for both sets of actors when the other pair is not onscreen. Audience members, who have not read the book, will wonder what the connection is between these couples.

One behind the scenes connection involves Gena Rowlands and her son, **The Notebook** Director Nick Cassavetes. Cassavettes has created a beautiful film that should serve as a tourist guide to South Carolina. One beautiful sequence involves a canoe trip down a swamp with birds and lily pads that recalls the paintings of Monet.

Cassavetes directs his ensemble of actors with dignity and intimacy. Rachel MacAdams gives a spunky and likeable performance as the tom boy Allie. Given that her last role was that of Lindsay Lohan’s chief rival in **Mean Girls,** MacAdams is showing herself to be a versatile actress. Gossling and Marsden are likeable rivals for Allie’s affection. Joan Allen could have portrayed Allie’s mother as a wicked stepmother, but fortunately reveals the character’s depth of her decisions. Rowlands and Garner strike the perfect notes for the swansong performance of their careers.

Odd as this may sound, both **The Notebook** and **Spider-Man 2** have much in common with regards to the romance department. Both movies feature leading characters that love each other, but face obstacles that intrude on their relationships. Withstanding the trials of time, each couple grows closer to each other with each challenge. Given the 3 week marriage and divorce cycle of Hollywood marriages, it is amazing that the motion picture industry knows how to make a movie like **The Notebook** any more.
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