(out of 5)
In this lovely romance, a nursing home resident (James Garner) reads a story to a cognitively impaired friend (Gena Rowlands) in order to ease the difficulty of her dimming capacities. The story he tells her is of a summer fling between a poor lumbermill worker (Ryan Gosling) and a carefree heiress (Rachel McAdams), who fell in love in 1940 and were separated by circumstance; as the narrative progresses, we start to suspect that the tale being told is no mere fiction but has a lot to do with the storyteller and his captivated listener. This heartfelt film manages to include all the typical pitfalls of the genre: the class conflict between young lovers, the snooty rival (James Marsden), the disapproving snobby mother (the ever so magnificent Joan Allen), even a reconciliation in the rain, and yet with Nick Cassavetes’s strong direction it all feels rich and inviting instead of manipulative. The Notebook is real romance without the cheese (okay, maybe a little), a film that makes you want to believe in it even when your more cynical side is telling you to resist. Gosling and McAdams have wonderful chemistry together in playing their amiable characters, while Garner and Rowlands’ story is heartbreakingly beautiful. The excellent screenplay by Jeremy Leven and Jan Sardi is adapted from the novel by schlockmaster Nicholas Sparks and is brought to life with beautiful cinematography by Oscar nominee Robert Fraisse (The Lover).
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Cinematography by Robert Fraisse
Music by Aaron Zigman
Production Design by Sarah Knowles
Costume Design by Chuck Potter
Film Editing by Alan Heim