Wednesday, February 13, 2013

let's talk about The Notebook.

Valentine's Day is upon us. I have absolutely nothing against Valentine's Day: any holiday dedicated to eating candy is ok in my book. However, I'm not ok with the influx of chick flicks around this time of year. I've told you before about how I am not a romantic person, so chick flicks are never on my to-do list. Yet I'm going to review one of them for you.

As you may recall, the last movie review I wrote brought to light the greatest bad movie of all time (The Room, that is). Now, I am pleased to bring you the worst “good” movie of all time. Yes, folks, I’m talking about The Notebook.

If I so loathe movies such as this, you may wonder why I watched it in the first place. My friend Bob and I went to see it at the Bryant, SD movie theatre just to find out what all the fuss was about (and also because rural South Dakota is severely lacking in weekend activities for 17-year-olds who don't care for illegally obtained Bud Light). Bob and I both had a really tough time holding ourselves together... not because it was such a touching story and we couldn't contain our tears, but because it was so terrible that we had to do our best not to audibly gag. The rest of the theatre-goers must've been cut from a different cloth than us: I'm pretty sure Bob and I had the only dry eyes in the place. We stood up, declared our evening wasted, and went out to do bigger, better things. (Or maybe not, who knows.)

I realize that by proclaiming my feelings about The Notebook, I may put looks of disbelief and horror on many a female face. How could I not just adore such a beautiful love story? Please. It’s not that I’m cynical: just realistic.

Now, I refer to The Notebook as a “good” movie because it’s nowhere near the same league as The Room. The Notebook was made by a bunch of professionals, while The Room was basically some guy with a camera and a crazy idea. Unlike The Room, the acting in The Notebook is not particularly bad, and the plot more or less makes sense. So if all that other stuff is ok, what’s my problem with this movie?

First of all, let me mention that this movie is a long and painful 124 minutes. Who in their right mind would want to sit through a LOVE STORY that long? The plot is also a major deterrent. To put it simply, it makes me gag. I know I said that the plot makes sense, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible. It’s full to the brim of predictable “twists” that are supposed to warm your heart, but only produce excessive eye-rolling on my end. I’m going to give away some of the film’s aforementioned plot twists in this synopsis, so if you haven’t seen the movie/read the equally sappy book by Nicholas Sparks (and genuinely want to), I suggest you stop reading this article and acquire the movie/book. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Notebook is one of those films with parallel plots set in different time periods. We follow young Noah and Allie in the 1940s, and old Duke and Miss Hamilton in the present. Most of us can guess just what is up with that.

I’ll start with the youngsters. Of course, this part of the story is set primarily in the 1940s South, location and time period of all things romantic. Noah (played by Ryan Gosling - only redeemable by his presence in the "hey girl" meme)... the poor-but-happy-and-of-course-very-handsome young man who can’t convince the rich-but-unhappy-but-he-wants-her-anyway Allie (Rachel McAdams - all full of oddly-placed moles and shrieking giggles) to go out with him. He does. They fall in love in approximately thirty seconds. He teaches her to be spontaneous and learn to relax. Allie’s rich parents don’t like him, so they send her away to somewhere rich people go.

All of this is very run-of-the-mill love story. After all, didn’t we see much of the same in Titanic?
They were WAY more interesting.
I must also mention that Noah is an insufferable cheeseball. Towards the beginning, he follows Allie around and spouts crap like “I had to be next to you,” “I was drawn to you,” and similar garbage. I don’t know about you, but this is certainly not the way to my heart. I’m sure that those who love and cherish this movie and all its pickup lines would disagree, but I’d say this is the way to a restraining order.

Anyway, back to the 1940s. So Allie’s at some fancy house in some fancy neighborhood on the East (where romantic things DON’T happen - that belongs in the South, you know). Noah writes her letters. Allie’s mother hides them. Noah joins the Army JUST IN TIME for World War II (primarily so girls could swoon over Ryan Gosling in a uniform). He comes back, buys a house (the SAME ONE that he and Allie ALMOST had an overemotional sex scene in years before - clever, huh?), fixes it up, sees Allie kissing some other guy, grows a beard, and becomes a hermit… like you do.

This “other guy” of Allie’s is some soldier she fixed up back in her Army nurse days. He’s rich = Allie’s parents love him = instant engagement. Allie finds a picture of Noah and his house (while she’s trying on her wedding dress, of course) and goes to visit him, and they have all sorts of good clean country fun (such as rowing a boat through goose-infested waters). Then: “WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE ME?!” “I WROTE YOU EVERY DAY!” Pause, then sex. Of course, Allie’s mother finds her. They chat. Mom had the same experience (loved poor, married rich). Mom gives Allie the wad of old letters. Allie chooses Noah.

Switch to the old people. Duke and Miss Hamilton are in a nursing home. They’re pals. He reads her the story of Allie and Noah. Turns out that the book is about THEM! OMG! Turns out Noah and Allie are in a nursing home and Allie has senile dementia. She wrote the story for Noah to read to her, and occasionally, she remembers what’s going on. So skip to the end of the movie. Noah sneaks out of his room and joins Allie in hers. She remembers him. They cuddle and then die. Yes, really.

So that’s the story of The Notebook in a rather large nutshell. A lot of stuff happens, that’s for sure. I can see how it appeals to some people - you just have to be the “right kind” of people. I am not the right kind.

Maybe I am a heartless jerk. But seriously, we’ve all seen this song and dance before. It’s the standard formula for tons of love movies, so why is this one so special? It must be the goose pond.
I wish they were man-eating geese.
The movie expects you to believe so much: money absolutely DOES NOT make you happy, good-looking cornballs like Noah just WON’T LET YOU GO no matter how mean you are, and true love never dies and conquers all - even senile dementia. But let me tell you, I’d much rather see it in a Disney movie. At least they have songs.

So happy Valentine's Day to each and every one of you! Now go out and watch a REAL love story.
That's what I'm talking about.

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