The Notebook (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers (but probably not).
This came out in 2004, but I didn't see it until 2017. I kind of planned on watching it on Valentine's Day, but there were a bunch of shows on TV that night, so I actually didn't get around to it until a couple of days after the holiday.
It begins... well, it begins with some sappy music playing while someone rows a boat outside a nursing home. Later, we see an old man called Duke (James Garner) begin to read a story to an old woman (Gena Rowlands) in that nursing home. (Actually, he starts by asking where he left off, so perhaps we don't actually hear the whole story. Although I'm pretty sure the woman didn't remember anything he'd read up to that point, since she has dementia. And we later learn that he's read the story to her numerous times before, though she doesn't remember it, or him.) I guess he's reading from a notebook, though the binding looked good enough that it could have been a real book.
Anyway, the story Duke reads to her begins in 1940. A 17-year-old girl from Charleston, South Carolina, named Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) is spending the summer in Seabrook, SC, with her wealthy parents, Ann (Joan Allen) and John. Allie has a local friend (whose name I don't think I ever caught), who is dating a guy named Fin. And Fin has a friend named Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling). When Noah sees Allie for the first time, he apparently falls in love at first sight, I guess. To be honest, the first few times we see him interact with her, he just seemed to me like a street harasser, so I was almost ready to write off the movie as totally unromantic crap. But I figured I'd give it a chance. And besides, it was a different time, when I supposed maybe women had less reason to be creeped out by creepy behavior. Maybe. Anyway, despite Allie's initial misgivings, it's not long before she falls hard for Noah. And from that point on, I was willing to forget about the creepy beginnings of their association, and focus on the romantic aspects that followed.
Unfortunately, Allie's mother doesn't approve of the relationship, because of Noah being poor. (Her father seems more relaxed about it, considering it a harmless summer romance.) Anyway... the movie spends some time making us want Allie and Noah to be together, but then it tears them apart. Allie goes back home. Noah writes to her every day for a year, but Ann keeps his letters from her. Then Noah and Fin go off to fight in World War II. Later, Noah returns home, and buys an old house to fix up. And eventually he starts sleeping with a widow named Martha, though he can't love her, because of his broken heart. Meanwhile, Allie meets a guy named Lon Hammond (James Marsden), and falls in love with him. Her parents approve, because unlike Noah, Lon comes from a wealthy family. Allie and Lon get engaged, but then she sees Noah's picture in the paper, since his fixing up the old house was newsworthy, I guess. So she goes to see him, apparently for closure. Or... for some other reason.
I kind of don't want to say too much more, for fear of spoiling things. I will say that the story of Allie and Noah is intercut with scenes of Duke and the old woman he's reading to. And there's a twist which I'd probably read about long before I watched the movie, but it's something that was pretty predictable anyway. And the truth is revealed long before the end of the movie, which kind of surprised me, but I think it was kind of refreshing that the audience's intelligence was not insulted by expecting us not to guess it. On the other hand, I suspected there might be another twist in store... but I won't say what my suspicion was, nor whether I was right about it. Anyway... the movie ends in the present, but I don't want to spoil anything about that. And um... I dunno. It's definitely a romantic movie. And it's sad. And... whatever. I think the whole thing (both the present and the past) is a pretty decent story, but it's all a little too melodramatic for me to really think it's great. Still, I'm glad to have finally seen it, but I doubt I'll ever want to watch it again.