Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NOTEBOOK, THE



(June 2004, U.S.)

I've said this before and I'll say it again - when it comes to the art of love on screen, I prefer a straightforward love story rather than a stupid romantic comedy that tries to pass itself off as a straightforward love story. However, when it comes to love stories, one of the greatest and often repeated clich├ęs is that our young lovers have got the cards stacked against them from the very beginning. Perhaps it's the horrors of war (A FAREWELL TO ARMS), a complicated love triangle (CASABLANCA), or even such an "inconvenience" as the Titanic sinking after striking the ice berg (thanks, James Cameron!). More often than not, it's the complications of class status that's destined to tear our young lovers apart. In THE NOTEBOOK, based on the best selling novel by famed love story novelist Nicholas Sparks (I didn't read it), Allie Hamilton (played by Rachel McAdams) is a seventeen year-old southern society-type heiress who just happens to be at the local carnival one night in the year 1940 when she meets Noah Calhoun (played by the always intense Ryan Gosling), the local country boy who merely works at the lumber mill. Love at first sight is not what takes place here, but perhaps that's the perfect set up for what will inevitably turn into a genuine and powerful love.

Bear in mind, this story of our young lovers (I keep repeating those two words, don't I??) is being told to us through the words and flashbacks of a man calling himself Duke as he reads this romantic story from a notebook to a fellow female patient at a nursing home. And without giving away any spoilers if you haven't seen the film or read the book, the true identity of these two elderly patients should be pretty damn obvious to you from the beginning. But anyway...Allie and Noah become instantly smitten with each other and begin sharing an idyllic summer love affair. This affair seems ultimately doomed, though, because remember the class conflict taking place here, as Noah is seen as nothing but "trash, trash, trash" by Allie's stuck-up, wealthy mother (played by Joan Allen). As this unfortunate fate would have, it would seem that Allie and Noah won't make it, as she leaves for college and he enlists to fight in World War II following the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Time passes and people move on. Or do they? Allie has grown as a woman and is engaged to exactly the type of upscale gentleman (a man named Lon) her snot-nosed parents would surely approve of. Noah continues to carry the torch for his one true love and finds his only solace in restoring an old, abandoned mansion, fulfilling his lifelong dream to buy it for his departed Allie, whom by now he hasn't seen for several years. Deluded and perhaps even mad, Noah convinces himself that if he restores the old house, Allie will someday come back to him. Later, Allie is startled to read in the newspaper that Noah has completed the house, and she makes the conscious choice to visit him. Do I have to spell out what happens next?? Clearly. The two renew their relationship and finally make love (notice that because I'm discussing a passionate love story, I'm displaying a little class and saying "make love" instead of saying "have sex" or "screw each other's brains out"). So now enter the dramatic triangle of Noah and Lon both love Allie and Allie loves both Noah and Lon but can't have both Noah and Lon! What will the indecisive Allie do and who will she choose (as if we didn't already know!)?

It should be noted that by this time in the film, it's officially revealed that the elderly female patient is in fact Allie, who is suffering from dementia and can't remember any of the events being read to her from the notebook. Duke, the man who is reading to her, is her husband Noah, but Allie can't recognize him. It's also clear that this reading process has taken place between the two of them before, in which Allie's memory of Noah and their life and love together has returned, but only for very short durations. It's rather unsettling to watch the two elderly lovers dancing with each other and then Allie is suddenly panic-strickened when she can't recognize the man she's dancing with. Really, such a tragic disease in real life is totally incomprehensible to me. By the end of the film, Noah's final moments with a lucid Allie is that of a conscious decision to die together because they believe that their love is strong enough to "take them away together". That sounds wonderful on paper, but am I supposed to honestly believe that they both died together at the right moment simply because they wanted to?? As they say, love is strange. And when it's not strange, it's often filmed to the backdrop of rich, saturated effects of beautiful sunsets on the water, as in THE NOTEBOOK.

Now then, keeping in mind that I'm a full blooded, heterosexual male who, by female standards, is supposed to be insensitive and pig-headed when it comes to the sensitivity of love and romance (that's what they say, anyway!), my own personal interpretations of true and everlasting love come into play having just watched THE NOTEBOOK. Remembering that characters like Noah and Allie are not perfect by any means. While their love is strong and everlasting, their tendencies to fight and get on each other's nerves is just as apparent. We're meant to understand that true and perfect love shall always get past things like that. As previously mentioned, that sounds great on paper and on film, but can one honestly accept that as truth in the real world? I won't be so crass as to say that love fades or even dies (though everybody's life is different), but love surely changes. It changes with children and with life's routines and inevitably reaches a point where you find it's sometimes necessary to remind yourself of the love that still exists between you and your partner. It no longer exists on the level that it did when you were both still carefree kids dating for just the fun of it, but rather exists on a level of companionship, commitment and responsibility. Admittedly, that doesn't sound like as much fun as the way it used to be. It is a fact of life, though. In the end, we may not be at the level of true love's perfection as with the elderly versions of Noah and Allie (for the record, I'd like to say that my own grandparents were married for fifty-six years and the last thing my grandfather told my grandmother on his deathbed was, "I didn't have enough time with you."), but I'd like to think we do the best we can on a daily basis and occasionally remember to tell the one we love, "I love you."

I love you, Beth!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Noah (voice-over): "Summer romances begin for all kinds of reasons, but when all is said and done, they have one thing in common. They're shooting stars, a spectacular moment of light in the heavens, fleeting glimpse of eternity, and in a flash they're gone."


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