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The Notebook (2004)

These Reviews|Blogs|Re-tellings are M15+ | You could get offended, there will be spoilers throughout and I may not fact check

'The Notebook' image of James Garner and Gena Rowlands

Reviewed: February 2021- Foxtel

Genre:    Romance | Drama
Rated:    PG
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden, Joan Allen, Sam Shephard

I tossed up which movie I would review next - I needed to throw in a Romance Movie and/or Drama Movie - and so watched three of my favourites: 'The Legend of the Fall', Atonement and 'The Notebook'. What kind of website would 'Movie of the Day' be - a website that claims to look at only the best movies - if I didn't include one of the most beloved romance movies ever made! The chance to turn it into a weird and quirky short story was too good to miss!

There is something about 'The Notebook' that has it voted up there as one of the most romantic films ever made. Is it because a man spends his youth building a house for the woman he loves, in the hope she finds her way back to him; could it be because a man spends his final days trying to rebuild his wife's mind with the story of their life; or is it simply that Ryan Gosling smoulders? Like, REALLY smoulders.

'The Notebook' is a true love story; an enduring love story; a story about a love that conquers all.

The movie revolves around three main characters - played by two women and three men.

The movie unfolds as a story told by Noah/Lon senior to his wife, Allie senior. She has no idea who she is, let alone who the dude who reads to her every day is. Is it Noah - her first love, who she met as a 17yo; or is it Lon - her fiancé, the rebound guy?

Let's begin. With a man rowing down a river - and Allie senior perving on from her bedroom in the nursing home she lives in with her hubby, Noah/Lon senior. It's morning and time to take his love down to the sunroom and read the story of their life to her, over and over. And over. Every day. All day.

Switch to June 1940, and a 17yo Allie is on hols for the summer in a fucked-if-I-know-what-the-name-is country-town. She's at a carnival with her girl, having heaps of fun and surrounded by preppy looking drongo's trying to impress her. Noah, out with his mate, spots Allie and is instantly captivated!

Cue smouldering look. I think he learnt that from The Rock.

Noah steps in Allies way, and asks her for a dance. She says fuck off, and he's like why the fuck not? Allie skips off to the Ferris Wheel with one of the drongos, and as the wheel spins towards the ground - with Allie checking Noah out - Noah says fuck it, and jumps into their moving chair, squeezing his arse in between the two. He says hey - lets go on a date. And Allie's like - no piss off! The operator stops the ride to have a go at Noah, so Noah launches himself out of the chair, does a triple-pike with a double tuck, followed by a half twist before ending up hanging from the bar in front of Allie and the drongo.

With Noah dangling some 20m's in the air - at one point with only one hand - Allie frantically agrees to go on a date with him. And whilst he's hanging there, Allie dacks him! Smart girl.

**Edit: Yep, ok my cousin Paul won't understand the term 'dacks him'. It's when someone pulls your pants down around your ankles. I'm sure your sister dacked you many times as a kid Paul**

Later that week as Noah and his mate walk home from work, Noah spots Allie, apologises for scaling the Ferris Wheel - he was drawn to her people - and reminds her that she promised him a date. Ha! Wake up Noah, she's not into you!! Imagine Allie's surprise when, later that night, her girl arranges a double-date to the movies with Noah and his mate - bitch! After an awkward start Allie and Noah must have had a great time because they ditch the other two and walk home together.

Before we go any further, I need to clarify - Allie comes from money. A lot of it. And Noah does not. He is a labourer at the lumber yard and lives with his dad in a small cottage. This will become an issue later on.

Ok, they're getting to know each other. Allie's days are all planned out. She's either studying or reading - she's on her way to college after summer. But what does she do for fun? She paints. Noah's a rebel! He thinks it's fun to hang out in the middle of the street - that's the best place to lie on the ground to chat up the chick you like - and to dance of course! My word you can move Ryan Gosling.

Allie and Noah are in love! They spend every waking minute together - there's the usual movie montage: ice-cream down the street; hanging out at the beach; swinging off a rope into the river; making out in the car. And they fight. A lot. And then make out. A lot.

At some point they have to meet the parents. And it couldn't be more different.

Allie meets Noah's dad - Sam Sherphard, another icon of the movie industry - one night as Noah is on the porch reading the poetry of Walt Whitman. Reading poetry helped cure Noah of his childhood stutter. It's informal here: Sam Sherphard makes Allie pancakes in the middle of the night; another day sees them having a little hoedown with a few fiddles, a couple of banjos and a washboard - doing the jig.

Fun Fact: James Earl Jones had a severe stutter as a child and was nearly mute for almost 8yrs. A teacher challenged him to recite a poem he had written to prove he had written it. Poetry and then acting allowed the actor to control his stutter. This has nothing to do with 'The Notebook' but it's a fun fact.

When Noah meets Allie's parents it is far more formal: a catered, sit-down brunch with a dozen of their closest friends. Even though it's outside we're still looking at fine china and crystal; and there are servants on stand-by. Everyone is dressed in cream and white. Umm, Noah is wearing black… someone forgot to send him the memo. And then some prick asks him how much he earns as a labourer at the mill. 40¢ an hour. For fucks sake, join a union Noah.

Enter mum - played to perfection by Joan Allen - who tries to fuck-over the entire relationship with a simple 'didn't you know she was going to some-far-away-college'? Subtle Joan Allen. Subtle.

But not enough to make a difference. Up to this point, this pair have only made-out. The heavy-duty kind. But not tonight. Tonight, Noah takes Allie to a dump. An actual dump of a house - Windsor Plantation built in 1772 - that is literally falling down around them. Christ, I'd be bulldozing it. But it's Noahs dream house and he's going to buy it and fix it up.

Allie: Well, what about me? Now don't I get any say in this?

Noah: Do you want a say in this? What do you want?

Allie: I want a white house, with blue shutters. And a room overlooking the river so I can paint… and a big 'ole porch wrapped around the entire house…

Noah: Ok.

Allie then finds an old, really out-of-tune piano and starts to play.

What happens next is just awkward. Allie takes off her blouse, Noah takes off his shirt; Allie takes off her skirt, Noah takes off his pants; Allie takes off her earrings, Noah takes off his socks. You get the drift.

Just when things start to heat up, Allie wants to know what Noah is thinking. She goes on and on. She won't shut up! Yeah - I don't think she really wants to do this.

And then Noah's mate bursts through the door - Allie's parents have the cops out looking for her!

When Allie gets home her Joan Allen blasts the crap out of her - it's 2am; where the fuck have you been? With Noah left to wait - in the waiting room - Allie and her parents have a full-on screaming match. Yeah, Noah just heard you call him trash Joan Allen… and then you ban Allie from seeing him.

Allie: I love him!

Joan Allen: You are 17 years old; you don't know anything about love!

Allie: And you do? You don't look at daddy the way that I look at Noah! You don't touch, or laugh, you don't play. You don't know anything about love!

Allie runs out of the room looking for Noah but he has left the building. As he heads for his truck, he tells Allie that he has to go home and think on things. And then FINALLY, they have a bit of a chat about the fact that he's poor and has no prospects; while she's rich and has the world at her feet!

Noah: … you're going away! And I'm staying here. And I'm so happy that you're doing that…

Allie: No… don't talk like that.

Noah: It's true!! I'm not going to have nice things, fancy things - that's not going to happen for me; it's never on the cards for me.

Allie: I don't have to go to school… I can stay here!

Noah: No!! Do you see, that's what I'm talking about!

Allie: You can come with me.

Noah: To New York? What am I going to do in New York?

So, Noah does the only honourable thing he can do - he tells Allie that it's time to cool it. Holy shit Noah, you just unleashed a psycho-bitch - you want to break up with her you asshole?!!! Well fuck off then! Allie whacks his head a few times, lands a punch or two and kicks his truck. Christ!

But wait! It's 5secs later and she didn't mean it - they're not really broken-up, are they? Yeah… you kicked his truck. There's no coming back from that.

Fun Fact: Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling dated in real life, for 2yrs from 2005 to 2007.

We jump forward to our seniors where Allie, very wisely says that Noah was only trying to do the right thing - though he really should have told her parents to piss off. Noah/Lon senior agrees.

It's the next morning for our 17yo Allie and her summer is about to end, a week earlier than planned. Joan Allen is putting a stop to this summer holiday romance today. Well played Joan Allen. Well played.

Allie jumps on a bike and races down to the lumberyard but Noah's not there - he's out on a delivery. She asks Noah's mate to pass on a message - she loves him, she's sorry and it's not over! But Noah's mate is like bitch - it IS over, let it be! If he want's you, he'll write. Now step off!

When Noah learns that Allie is leaving, he races over to her house but it is all locked up. She's gone. So, Noah starts a writing campaign that lasts a full year. He fesses up to being an idiot and if she would only write back, he'd move to wherever she wanted him to go. He writes her a letter every single day. For a year.

Does anyone else think stalker?

But Noah didn't bank on the determination of a mother to ensure that her daughter didn't end up unwed and preggers to a guy who only makes 40¢ an hour. Seriously dude - join a union! Joan Allen's at the mailbox every day intercepting the mail - Allie never gets the letters!! That's seriously fucked up Joan Allen.

After writing 364 letters with no reply, Noah writes a final farewell letter. He's done. He and his mate enlist and head off to war. After 2yrs and - in what can only be described as a pitiful war scene - Noah's mate is killed by an air-raid somewhere in Europe.

In the meantime, Allie - who has been at college for 3yrs - decides to volunteer as a nurses-aide. Noah is never far from her thoughts - will he be one of the broken bodies? Did someone here fight beside him? Does someone know where he is? This is where she meets a broken Lon, in a full body cast, who dares to ask her out on a date. C'mon mate - get real! And then one day after class, this really handsome dude is waiting for her - decked out in full dress uniform, and standing beside an extremely nice car.

Lon: Oh miss? I'm all better… now how's about that date.

The thing with Lon - he's not only handsome, smart and funny - he comes from old southern money and is fabulously wealthy. Yeah, everything her parents want in a husband. But the difference with the Allie|Lon love story for us dear reader, is that this love story took up 45 SECONDS of film time compared to the 45 MINUTES for the Allie|Noah love story. Yeah - I did the math!

At the end of the war Noah heads home to find that his dad - Sam Shepard - has sold their cottage. Noah will now be able to buy his dream dump - the Windsor Plantation. Even after all this time - it's been at least 6yrs - Noah wants to fix the house up the way Allie wanted it: painted white with blue shutters; with a porch that wraps all the way around. So, he hops on a bus and heads into the city - he has to submit the plans to council. And, in some movie magic, Noah sees Allie on the sidewalk! He jumps off the bus and chases after her, but when he catches up, she's in a coffee shop with Lon, kissing and laughing and you know… happy.

James Garner narrates that something broke inside Noah that day, and he got it into his head that if he restored the house the way that they'd planned, Allie would find her way back to him. There's another - very quick - montage, showing Noah restoring the dump. Seriously, knock the fucker down!

Nice narration btw James Garner.

The movie keeps linking back to Allie senior and Noah/Lon senior with little snippets, to let us know that that there are two Hollywood legends on the movie payroll. We learn a bit more about their life in the nursing home, and how the story consumes their day.

Fun Fact: Nick Cassavetes - the director - is Gena Rowlands son!

Back to the 1940's and Sam Sherphard has died, leaving Noah alone, with the house his only distraction. He completely renovates it, making everything - including the furniture - himself. 'House and Garden' wants to do a feature on the house - it's an historical landmark - so they come out, take some pics and the house gets front cover. Noah promptly puts the house up for sale.

'The Notebook' image of Ryan Gosling in front of Windsor Plantation

He then - very strangely - refuses every offer he receives, even ones that are way over the asking price! He chases people off the property with a gun for Christ sake!! Yeah - he doesn't want to sell it.

Umm, did you know that Noah goes out rowing on the river, every morning?

Have you guessed who Allie picked yet?

In case you think that Noah is completely consumed by all things Allie and is blindly waiting for her to return to him - you're a fool! He's hooking up with Martha - a war widow - every other night. Now, Martha is under no illusion that Noah is into her - she knows he's in love with someone else. But she's willing to take the scraps. And that is actually really sad. Or pathetic. You choose.

Martha: What do you want Noah?

Noah: What do you mean, what do I want?

Martha: From me… sometimes when you talk to me you don't even see me. Look, a woman knows when a man looks into her eyes and sees someone else.

Noah: Now you know I want to give you all the things that you want, right? But I can't. Because they're gone. They're broken. Alright?

Wow. Martha. You really lucked out.

Righto let's switch it up a bit. Allie is getting fitted out for her wedding dress, along with a dozen of her nearest and dearest gal pals. There's champers on board, plenty of giggling and girly screaming. OMFG. And then someone produces the 'House and Garden' mag - Allie and Lon's wedding announcement is in it - and Allie sees that pic of one very intense looking Noah, beside a fully renovated white house, with blue shutters and a wrap-around porch.

Allie promptly feints and falls flat on her face. Not a single one of those bitches catches her.

What is a girl to do… does she spend the next few weeks at home, preparing for her wedding? Or does she tell her fiancé that she needs some space - she's got some things she needs to take care of. Nothing suss about that.

Now, how would you feel if the girl of your dreams - the one who broke you - suddenly turned up at the house you built for her, out-of-the-blue? I suspect you'd be a little dumbstruck. Just like Noah. He doesn't speak. It's a bit rude tbh. Allie's just like - heeeyyyy. Saw your pic in 'House and Garden', wanted to see if you were ok. Yeah, you're ok. I'm going to leave now and drive straight into your fence. And then flood the engine so the car won't start.

Allie, I think you best go inside for a quick cuppa.

Allie senior thinks she's heard this story before - more than once. It's working people! But they have to take a break from reading. Noah/Lon senior has to see the doc - he has a crook heart: two heart attacks will do that to you. He tells the doc about his theory re reading to his wife and the doc tells him he's dreaming. In the background, we can hear Allie senior playing the piano. It suddenly stops.

Noah/Lon senior: Damn! They forgot to turn the page for her…

When the piano starts back up, it is the song Allie first played Noah in that dump of a house.

Doc: I guess they flipped that page.

Noah/Lon senior: No. That she's playing by memory.

Have you guessed who Allie picked yet?

Meanwhile, in the 1940's Allie and Noah are sitting in the parlour having a cuppa and chatting. A cuppa turns into dinner. Dinner turns into supper, with a poetry reading on the porch. And Noah is SCORCHING up the screen - every woman on earth wants to be looked at like that!

Allie: It was real wasn't it… you and me? Such a long time ago… we were just a couple of kids. But we really loved each other didn't we.

Noah: (Silently burning up the screen)

The night ends with Allie heading off to the local 'Holiday Inn', but not before agreeing to come back the following day. Noah - stop it. STOP IT! She's engaged!! Don't get your hopes up you idiot!

It's visitor's day for Allie senior and Noah/Lon senior, and their kids and grandkids have turned up. Allie's clueless - she gets introduced to her family - before heading inside for a snooze. The fam wants Noah/Lon to come home - he doesn't belong in a nursing home.

Fam: Daddy, come home… we miss you… this is crazy you living here…

Noah/Lon senior: Look guys, that's my sweetheart in there. I'm not leaving her… this is my home now. Your mother is my home.

It's one of those beautiful sunny days in the 1940's when Allie fronts up to Noahs, though apparently the rain is coming. Allie and Noah head out in the rowboat into one of the most amazing things I've ever seen - thousands of white swans just serenely swimming about, amidst a submerged forest. The rowboat barely disturbs them - they just glide out of the way. When Allie asks Noah if the swans will stay, he tells her "…they'll go back where they came from." Deep.

Fun Fact: Cypress Gardens in Charleston (South Carolina, USA) is an attraction built in 1927 where you can take a boat out into the swamp. The swans had to be imported and trained so they would follow the boat - they aren't there anymore. Filming had to be done in the month of January so the resident alligators would be hibernating!

So, they're having this really great time, Allie compliments Noah on finishing the house and he stuffs it up by saying "…well I promised you I would." And of course, he continues looking at her like he does.

Bring on the rain! Noah starts rowing like a demon; Allie's all pissed off, cause she's getting wet; then they both start to laugh. I mean seriously - it is literally the middle of winter; it's pissing down rain and they don't have jumpers on - it's fucking freezing! But the intensity is boiling!!

They reach the dock - it's bucketing down, they're about to be hit by lightning - and as Noah ties up the boat, Allie demands to know:

Allie: Why didn't you write me? Why? It wasn't over for me! I waited for you for seven years… and now it's too late.

Noah: I wrote you 365 letters… I wrote you every day for a year!

Allie: You wrote me?

Noah: Yes! It wasn't over… it still isn't over!!

And then the kiss that won Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling the 2005 MTV Movie Award's 'Best Kiss', followed by an extremely hot and steamy rush to the boudoir. And then he slows down people. Righto, that's enough. 'Movie of the Day' is not that kind of site.

After the first round, Allie starts to giggle:

Allie: You gotta be kidding me! All this time that's what I've been missing? Let's do it again!

Fast forward to the next day. Allie and Noah have made their way downstairs and are laying in front of the fire. Noah's got a snore happening - he's spent - but Allie is ready to go again… wakeup Noah! Nup. He needs food woman!

There's a knock at the door. Holy shit, it's Martha!

Apparently, Ryan Gosling's acting skills are so superior, Martha is able to surmise that he not only has another woman in there - yeah, ok that was pretty obvious actually - but that she is 'the one'. In like, 15secs. Get that man an Oscar right now!

Allie invites Martha in for brekkie - or lunch, or possibly dinner - because it is dark when Martha leaves. She thinks that Allie is "…sensational." Martha remembers what real love looks like and it's something she can look forward to… with the next guy.

The following morning, whilst Noah pops down to the shops, Allie follows a trail that he has left her. It leads to a fully decked-out art studio - over-looking the river. Just as he had promised.

Picture this: a young naked woman, wrapped in a blanket that has fallen to her waist. She's out on the porch, sitting at an easel painting a beautiful landscape. The birds are chirping… it's idyllic. And then her mother turns up. Completely fucks it up don't you think?

I do believe I know exactly how much trouble Allie is in - it doesn't matter that she's a grown woman - it's the 1940's and her mother has just found her unmarried daughter, naked in a man's house. She's a tramp!

But Allie is pissed off that her mother withheld all those letters from her, so Joan Allen - calm-the-fuck down! Are they allowed to be equally pissed off at each other? Seems so…

Joan Allen wants to share - she takes Allie to a fucked-if-I-know-what-kind-of-plant where she points out one of the workers. He's middle-aged, got a spare tyre - but when he was young apparently, he was hot! Allie's grandfather didn't approve, so Joan Allen and this dude ran away - and were promptly picked up by the cops. From time to time, Joan Allen comes down and has a perv. Why did she show Allie this guy? I truly don't know.

When Joan Allen drop's Allie back at Noah's she gives her all of his letters… finally.

The thing is, Lon is in town - they saw his car at the 'Holiday Inn' - and Allie now has to choose. She's just had a day or two of mind-blowing sex with Ryan Gosling - sorry, Noah - her first love, who she was SO devastated to lose it took her seven years to get over him. They have a tempestuous relationship; they fight, they make up. But. She's engaged to this really, really nice guy who she also loves; he is sweet and kind. They have the sort of relationship that is tempered and stable. He also has money.

Noah can't believe that Allie might be pissing off again! What, was she bored or something? They get into it - have a HUGE fight - apparently, they both hate each other now!

Noah: Would you just stay with me?

Allie: Stay with you? What for, look at us, we're already fighting!

Noah: Well, that's what we do! We fight! You tell me when I'm being an arrogant son-of-a-bitch and I tell you when you're being a pain-in-the-ass. Which you are 99% of the time. I'm not afraid to hurt your feelings… so it's not going to be easy, it's going to be really hard and we're going to have to work at this every day but I want to do that because I want you… can you do something for me? Can you just picture your life for me - 30yrs from now, 40yrs from now? What's it look like? If it's with that guy, go. GO! I lost you once, I think I can do it again!

Yeah, it doesn't matter who she chooses, someone is going to get hurt.

Allie takes off - she's shattered - and in her distressed state, her car starts to drift into the path of an oncoming truck. Holy shit! Wait - isn't she really old and in a nursing home?? Yeah - no accident. But she veers off into a ditch, and decides that's a good spot to read Noah's 365 letters. Starting with the last letter, she reads that Noah has accepted that they're over. He knows that their love was real; "… the best love… weakens the soul… (and) plants a fire in our hearts…"

As the Noah/Lon senior finishes this part of their story, he quotes a line or two of poetry - Walt Whitman's poetry.

Have you guessed who Allie picked yet? For fucks sake he just quoted Walt Whitman!!

Righto romance lovers! Noah/Lon senior has organised a romantic candlelit dinner for Allie senior - very intimate. But as she sits, all she wants to know is who Allie picked!

In the 1940's Allie pulls into the 'Holiday Inn' and tidies herself before fronting up to explain herself to Lon. He sees three options:

  1. He can shoot Noah; or
  2. He can bash the shit out of Noah; or
  3. He can leave Allie

But Lon knows that none of those options give him Allie - she's already gone. And in spite of everything, he still loves her - but he doesn't want to have to convince his fiancé she should be with him. This guy is a REALLY nice guy.

Allie senior is like - who did she choose? Tell me you bloody bastard!! And then the lightbulb moment.

The 1940's Allie pulls up outside Noahs house and unloads her suitcases. As Noah comes out onto the 2nd storey deck, she looks up and shrugs.

Allie senior remembers! "It was us! … Noah…"

Noah senior tells Allie senior that they only have a few minutes before she goes off with the fairies again. He hits 'Play' on their favourite song and they settle in for a slow dance. They catch up, profess their love… the usual. But it doesn't take long until Allie senior's confusion sets in - a very confronting and terrifying moment for both her and Noah senior. Allie senior has to be held down to be sedated, as an extremely distressed Noah senior looks on.

Later that night Noah senior is looking though the family photo album - kudos to the prop department for their excellent photoshopping - I almost believed Gena Rowland and James Garner were a couple in real life! We finally learn that the book he reads from each day was written by Allie.

"The Story of Our Lives" by Allison Hamilton Calhoun
To my love, Noah. Read this to me, and I'll come back to you

The next day finds Noah senior being rushed to hospital, unconscious in full cardiac arrest. Holy fuck, he's dead!!

Allie senior, not having someone to sit with her each and every day, to watch over her and stimulate her mind, is locked up in the dementia ward where the patients just sit in their chairs and wither. It's pretty sad actually.

At some point Noah senior is back, out of hospital and looking for his love! Yeah - he's not dead. The problem is, it's the middle of the night and they don't want you wandering around after dark in those nursing homes. The nurse does him a solid however and pretends to not know where he's going; he's able to sneak into Allie senior's room. Now, considering how she reacted the last time she found a strange man in her room, that's a brave move! But half-asleep Allie senior recognises Noah senior immediately.

Allie senior: Do you think that our love can create miracles?

Noah senior: Yes, I do. That's what brings you back to me each time.

Allie senior: Do you think our love can take us away together?

Noah senior: I think our love can do anything we want it to.

Noah senior lays down in bed beside Allie senior, and holding on tightly to both of her hands they fall asleep.

That's how the nurse finds them the next morning - dead. Hands intertwined. Their love did indeed take them away together.

Like I said, one of the most romantic movies ever made.

My Rating:





I am VEXED!!


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