Based on the bestseller by Nicolas Sparks the film begins with Duke (James Garner) and Allie (Gena Rowlands) an inseparable couple living in a nursing home. While Duke remembers their life together Allie who suffers from progressive dementia does not. Their only bond is a faded notebook from which Duke reads to Allie every day telling her the same story over and over. It's a sweeping tale of two South Carolina teens country boy Noah (Ryan Gosling) and city gal Allie (Rachel McAdams) who spend one glorious summer in the early 1940s falling madly in love. Unfortunately the couple is soon separated first by her disapproving parents and then by World War II but after seven years apart after taking different paths they are passionately reunited. There's a catch though; Allie is now faced to choose between the man she once loved and the successful businessman (James Marsden) she is engaged to. It's really no surprise who the young Allie chooses in the end--but for Duke the only thing that keeps him going is the fact that every day somehow through the power of this story the mentally impaired Allie miraculously remembers their love if only for a very brief moment before slipping back into oblivion. Tears being jerked from your eyes yet?
The talented cast certainly elevates The Notebook's romantic drudgery. McAdams takes a departure from all the Mean Girls she's played lately (including The Hot Chick) and easily wins you over as the spirited young Allie while the usually intense Gosling also tackles something lighter so to speak than his previous darker roles such as his Jewish-turned-American Nazi leader in The Believer. While infusing a certain sense of brooding and melancholy into Noah especially in the years he spends pining for Allie Gosling manages to exude Noah's genuine warmth and sensitivity as well. And between the two of them real sparks fly as the actors paint a fresh and inviting picture of young love that stands the test of time. Marsden is completely wasted however as Allie's fiancé Lon a upstanding Southern gentleman Allie's parents expect her to marry who offers little as to why Allie should stay with him. As the older contingency veterans Garner and Rowlands who take the sappiest material and turn it into something meaningful inspire some truly heart-ripping moments as the aging couple holding onto their love as tight as they can. In the supporting cast Joan Allen has some shining moments as Allie's uptight mother with a secret of her own.
In bringing the popular novel about enduring love to life director Nick Cassavetes (Unhook the Stars) may have used his own experiences having seen his parents--the late John Cassavetes and his lady love and muse Gena Rowlands--play out their own real-life love affair. Cassavettes gets to the heart of the material right away and permeates the screen with the beautiful surroundings of South Carolina where The Notebook was filmed. We glide through lush moss-filled swamps and sleepy Southern towns marvel at languid shots of the South Carolina coastline. It's very clear Cassavetes has a way with actors much like his father did gently coaxing realistic performances from his young somewhat untested leads while allowing old guards like Garner and Rowlands to simply work their magic (imagine telling your Oscar-nominated mother how to act. Right). The problem is the story itself which not only offers nothing new to the romance genre but also isn't very compelling. There are no great tragedies (save perhaps for the whole dementia thing) no real villainous presence to keep the lovers apart no peril at all. It's boy-meets-girl boy-loses-girl boy-wins-girl-back--ho-hum. Where's the sudsy soap opera when you need it?
October 28, 2002 7:55am EST
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to hurl yourself into a spinning ceiling fan or snort a line of wasabi then Jackass: The Movie is right up your alley. Paramount Pictures and MTV Films have released the big screen adaptation of the series featuring a bunch of guys doing really gross and often dangerous stunts--all for your viewing pleasure. Here series regulars including Johnny Knoxville Bam Margera Chris Pontius Steve-O Dave England Ryan Dunn and Jason 'Wee Man' Acuna perform stunts they say couldn't be done on network television. In one gag for example Dunn inserts a toy car up his butt then visits an x-ray specialist to complain about some mysterious pain. When the doc shows him the x-ray with the silhouette of the car clearly visible Dunn asks him how it could have gotten there to which the doc replies in all seriousness "Maybe you stuck it up your ass." The lowbrow pranks however are nothing compared to having to watch the Jackass crew's pasty white butt cheeks as they prance around in thongs throughout the majority of the film. If you can stomach that then you're ready for anything.
When Knoxville wanted to turn his practical jokes into a career he approached Big Brother magazine editor Jeff Tremaine about turning his antics into a column. Tremaine instead suggested he videotape his stunts and the two released the Big Brother Video Trilogy which quickly became an underground hit. It's nice to see that despite his cult status and MTV fame Knoxville (whose real name is Philip John Clapp) is not above performing some of the movie's worst stunts including getting a beating from heavyweight boxer Eric "Butterbean" Esch which sends him to the emergency room. It is interesting to see the personalities of the some of the Jackass crew emerge like Steve-O's. Initially he was supposed to be the one pulling off the toy car prank but he backs out on camera citing health concerns. But later on we find out Steve-O simply didn't want to disappoint his father and drew the line at that stunt. Look out for some great cameos including BMX pro Matt Hoffman skateboarder Tony Hawk and former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins.
Tremaine who directed the film stays true to the series and delivers a movie that pretty much resembles an extended episode with wackier stunts. The footage is shot in the same fashion with hand-held cameras and spy cams hidden in oversized hats. Although the first few gags are not the best (neither are the ones involving animals which are sad rather than outrageous) the film eventually unleashes its goodies saving the best for last. By the warning that flashes on the screen at the beginning of the film it's clear that everyone involved has a sense of humor about it. It reads: "The following stunts were performed by professionals so for your safety and the protection of those around you Paramount Pictures and MTV Films insist that neither you or your dumb little buddies attempt any of what you're about to see."