The Notebook is told using parallel story-lines. The tale of young love is read aloud by a sharp-witted senior citizen (James Garner) to a fellow nursing home resident who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimers (Gena Rowlands). Both of these performers are superb. The two stories are bound together. Garner is the aging Noah and Rowlands is the dying Allie. Are you weeping yet? Garner is reading from notebooks he kept of his life and love. The movie crosscuts between the past and the present. I guess theres good and bad news in all of this. This is a classically-styled melodrama. Its written by Jeremy Leven from an adaptation by Jan Sardi, from the novel by Nicholas Sparks. If you havent read Sparks books, hes a male romance writer. His works are sometimes cloying, often hard-to-swallow, but always about love and romance and the warm runny feelings they imbue. Message In A Bottle, The Rescue, The Wedding are three of his published novels. Neither Sparks, nor the writers, nor director Nick Cassavetes (son of the legendary John Cassavetes and Ms. Rowlands) are afraid of emotion, and I admire them for that. I refuse to sneer at romance novels. I may never read them, but Id rather people read them than read nothing at all. The movie suffers a touch from overstatement; theres an obviousness that actually impedes the films flow. I enjoyed this movie for the acting, for its simplicity, and for its daring in thinking we havent become so cynical a nation that greeting card movies dont matter any more.
On the other hand, cynical manipulation is awash in The Terminal, a melodrama of a different stripe. The movie is played for laughs, thanks to Tom Hanks galumphing performance, as if hes discovered the milk of human kindness, when in fact hes only discovered how to be a ham. But the premise is serious, even if its a premise thats hard to swallow. An Eastern European fellow named Viktor (Hanks) is on a jet winging its way to New Yorks JFK Airport when a coup overthrows his countrys leaders, seals the borders, and make him stateless. Supposedly, this is all based on a true story, but Im not buying any of the cloying Hollywood embellishments. Is he the only person from his country to whom this is happening? Nobody else from Krakozia on the plane? Or any other plane? Viktor ends up being rejected by Customs, told he cant enter America by an officious Homeland Security bureaucrat (Stanley Tucci), and lives for a time at the terminal. He washes up in the rest room, sleeps on benches, and becomes smitten with a flight attendant (Catherine Zeta-Jones). He also keeps a peanut can as a fetish object, not unlike Wilson the volleyball in Hanks other man-alone effort, Cast Away. The movie can only be as interesting as the actor playing the part because hes on screen virtually all of the time. Unfortunately, Hanks acting tour-de-force is more like a tour-de-narcolepsy.
The Terminal is boring because its not that well-acted and its utterly and patently ludicrous. There are no surprises. The comedy is featherweight. Sometimes Hanks seems to think hes doing Jacques Tati, the great French comic actor from the 1940s and 1950s, who virtually mimed his way through his films. News flash for Hanks. Youre no Jacque Tati. In this day and age, no person is going to be treated like the Viktor character is treated in the film. Not in this era of terrorism alerts. And the movie is absolutely set in the here and now. Wheres the Red Cross? Wheres the U.N.? Wheres the Immigration Halfway House? Wheres any beady-eyed, greedy shark of a lawyer who sees a millions bucks in publicity to be made? As for director Steven Spielberg, his one saving grace is the set of the JFK terminal, which was actually erected piece by piece in Palmdale, California in the desert area north of Los Angeles. Spielberg thinks hes making one of those slice-of-life comedies the way the Czechs did in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but he isnt. Not when his movie is a non-stop commercial for products galore. Something cant be cluttered with garish signs and advertising and then claim its honoring simplicity and human experience. Not a chance. This is one dumb, misguided movie that might have been interesting if a little thought had gone into the screenplay and if Viktor had left the building. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor
In the mood for a little romance? Tiptoeing into movie theaters is The Notebook, which promises recollections of those three-hankie tear-jerkers that Turner Classic Movies shows time and again. Hey, dont get me wrong for one second, Turner Classic Movies is the reason I subscribe to cable television. Okay, it and CNN, Bravo, and the Food Network. Anyway, its about time there was a love story that made folks cry. I want movie theaters to unreel a variety of choices, not just action-packed retreads. So, here we have The Notebook, which is a soap-opera with big-screen accoutrements.
The very talented Ryan Gosling burns up the screen as Noah Calhoun, a smoldering small-town mill worker who isnt lucky in the money department. He came from poor beginnings and has managed to remain poor. The guys got grit; however, so he falls in love with a lass of wealth and privilege named Allie Hamilton, whos well-acted by Rachel McAdams. Their summer romance is a true made-for-the-movies fantasy. Their love grows and flourishes. These two young adults fall for each other long and hard, and it hurts when her parents conspire against what they perceive is a mismatch of breeding and class. Were in 1940s America, North Carolina to be exact, where simple pleasures await the citizenry and idyllic sunsets fairly shout romance. Joan Allen and David Thornton play Allies parents, and I want to state again that it is a criminal cultural act that the brilliant Ms. Allen hasnt won an Academy Award. Shes been nominated myriad times for other films. As expected, World War II rears its ugly head, and Allie ends up becoming engaged to a wealthy Southerner (James Marsden). Things seem to be going well until she sees a picture of Noah in the newspaper. Then, well , do I really have to spell it out for you?