As Above, So Below
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Two young lovers are separated by the Second World War. Weepy romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, and directed by Nick Cassavetes
It's a wonder that the producers of old-fashioned weepie The Notebook didn't seek corporate sponsorship from Kleenex. A love story whose seems to be to make the audience open their tear-ducts as often as their hearts, it's the kind of true-love-beset-by-the-ravages-of-fortune tale that could have come straight out of a Mills & Boon paperback. In actual fact, it's based on a novel by American romance writer Nicholas Spark, whose previously adapted work includes Message In A Bottle and A Walk To Remember.
The Notebook's framing storyline has aging senior citizens played by James Garner and Gena Rowlands meeting in a retirement home. Rowlands' character suffers from Alzheimer's, which prompts Garner's character to read her a story from his notebook about two young lovers named Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Racehl McAdams) in North Carolina in the 1940s. Whisking us back to the age of Glenn Miller tunes, Pearl Harbour and the pre-civil rights era Deep South, director Nick Cassavetes proceeds to skip between the present and the past until the film's twist becomes unbearably obvious.
No tear-jerking love story is complete without the vicissitudes of fortune and here it's the lovers' differing social backgrounds that keep them apart: Noah is a poor white trash Southern boy, while Allie is more used to sucking on a silver spoon than a moonshine jar. By the time their families have interfered and the war has separated them, it's obvious that the course of true love won't be running smooth at any point in this movie.
At least that gives the actors something to work with. Gosling, so brilliantly intense in The Believer, and so charismatic in Half Nelson, proves a stoic and offhandedly rugged hero, though that probably says more about the conventional stereotyping of his Hicksville farmhand than his acting ability. Meanwhile, McAdams proves that there's more to her than previous roles in high school-set comedies Mean Girls and The Hot Chick might suggest.
Coasting by on its nostalgic recreation of the 1940s, its golden summery glow and its refreshingly un-starry young leads, this delivers everything one could ask for from a safe, unthreatening and middle of the road romantic-weepy full of chocolate box visuals.
Bland and sentimental, The Notebook is old-fashioned filmmaking aimed at an old-fashioned audience. Kleenex essential.
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