As mushy melodrama’s go, Nick Cassavetes’ 2004 effort is a pretty fine example of schmaltz; telling the predictable and better seen elsewhere story of old age, via a sixty year shifting eternal love story, with James Garner’s octogenarian reciting to care home compatriot Gena Rowlands, his note booked story of two young lovers in the 1940’s is his way of trying to improve her failing memory.
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams play the love struck young couple, unsurprisingly from different sides of the class coin battling McAdams’ disapproving wealthy parents. War, time and circumstance conspire to separate and reunite the pair.
Saccharine sweet in both taste and artificiality The Notebook spends much of its time telling the young lovers’ insipid, often irritating story; most bothersome is McAdams’ spoilt southern belle, whose antics and indecision wash away any charm created in what amounts to the continued teasing of poor Ryan Gosling’s affections and the strung along James Marsden. Any love she would appear to feel for any of her squeezes is made unbelievable when her supposed conflict comes across the more ineffectual rather than creating genuine sympathy.
Thankfully the present day musings of Garner are more convincing in a heartfelt and saddening study of dementia, but The Notebook’s twists are telegraphed so poorly that any build and attempts at misdirection are pointless and ineffective.
Garner and fellow elder Rowlands are by far the better beating heart of The Notebook’s story but Goslings’ soapy lead is unconvincing in a remarkably low key performance. Outbursts are few and emotions are kept on a safe but sure footing, creating a somewhat disingenuous tone with any real sincerity saved for the saddening interplay between the more convincing seniors.
Nick Cassavetes’ fluffy direction no doubt presents a beautifully realised era piece, but it’s a completely mild and unchallenging time spanning love story that overall feels disconnected.
Often painfully bland with a disengaging central youthful pair it’s hard to feel a care even with the far more compelling and touching study of old age frailty.
I didn’t feel the love in The Notebook.