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Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, an elderly man reads from a notebook to an elderly woman about the love story of a young couple growing up in 1940s on the South Carolina coast.
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From the opening image of a rower, rowing at sunset in front of a beautiful home, we know immediately, this film will be an emotional rollercoaster, and will tug on every inch of our heart strings. "The Notebook" revolves around an elderly man, Duke (James Garner), and an elderly woman, Allie (Gena Rowlands), who are living in a nursing home. Allie is suffering from dementia and struggles to remember anything about her past. Duke, other than some heart problems, seems to be in good spirits and health, and he reads from a notebook to Allie about the love story of Noah and Allie that began in the 1940s. The movie begins with Duke knocking on the door of Allie's room while her nurse is attempting to get Allie up and moving for the day. After a little convincing, Allie agrees to let Duke read to her, and as Duke begins reading from a notebook, the film cuts back to the past.
The year is now 1940, and we see Noah (Ryan Gosling) walking around the county fair with his friend Fin (Kevin Connolly), and suddenly Noah spots the young Allie (Rachel McAdams) for the very first time. She is riding bumper cars and laughing uncontrollably, and Noah is immediately smitten. This scene reminds us all as humans how we either felt when we first saw our true love, or it gives us a glimpse of what it will feel like when we do see that person for the first time, and we know that from here on out, our heart will never be the same. Nick Cassavetes (The Director), does a wonderful job of illustrating this emotion within Noah by simply slowing down the frame and letting Allie's laugh and natural beauty radiate across the screen for several beats. At this point, we know as much as Noah does, he has found the key to his heart, his soul mate, and now he must find a way to make it work. Noah asks Fin who that is, and Fin explains she is Allison Hamilton, and is friends with his girlfriend Sara (Heather Wahlquist). Fin goes on to explain she is staying in Seabreeze for the summer with her parents, and that her parents are extremely wealthy. Noah seems to take all this in, and without hesitation, immediately walks up to Allie, even though about three guys are hanging all over her, and without even introducing himself, asks her to dance. Without surprise, Allie shuts him down, and while it seems Allie may be interested, she seems nervous and cautious about the situation. Noah, unsatisfied with Allie's answer, watches Allie as she rides around the gigantic ferris wheel with another gentleman. He watches for a beat, and then decides he
From this scene on, Noah and Allie quickly fall in love and become inseparable, or at least until Allie's parents decide to go back to Charleston early. Allie's parents, especially her mom, feel Noah is no good for Allie simply because he does not come from a wealthy background. Personally, I thought this was a great twist in the story because this is real. Unfortunately, often there is more to relationships than love, and finances seem to dominate at times. Often love is trampled upon because of money or lack there of, and when two people, such as Allie and Noah, come from such different backgrounds, often parents impose their will, and the relationship does not stand a chance, and unfortunately, sometimes true love is crushed and forgotten. This proves true in this story as well, because once Allie leaves for the summer without a chance to tell Noah goodbye, the two fall apart and out of touch. Noah writes Allie everyday, but her mother intercepts the letters and Allie never receives them. After some time has passed, Allie begins to move on with her life. Noah, on the other hand, joins the military and is shipped off to war. Fortunately, he survives the war, comes home, and his father (Sam Shepard) has bought him the house of his dreams, the "Windsor Plantation", even though it is in much need of renovation. However, Noah only sees Allie when he gazes upon the place where Allie and him shared their most intimate moment, and he is still in love with her. While she is no longer around, his heart is in an immense amount of pain that only Allie can relieve. Allie on the other hand, is now engaged to a guy named Lon Hammond (James Marsden). Lon is extremely wealthy, comes from old, southern money, is charming, nice, and loved by Allie's parents, especially her mom. Noah is unaware of any of this until he goes to Charleston to get the building plans approved to rebuild his "new", old house. He sees Allie walking down the street while riding the bus, and in a desperate attempt to stop the bus, he finally just opens the door, jumps off, and fratically begins chasing Allie down the street. However, he loses sight of her, and finally regains sight as he glances through a restaurant window. Unfortunately, as he begins to smile by the sight of her, Lon walks into the picture and kisses Allie. This is a pivotal moment in the film because it sends Noah into a tizzy. We see and feel his pain, his anguish, his dispair, his hopelessness.
Eventually, Noah finishes the house, and it is exactly as he promised Allie. The house is magnificient, and gets notoriety from the paper. Noah gets his picture taken, and in another great technique to show Noah's pain, he hands his liquour bottle to the photographer just before he snaps the shot. We get the sense that Noah has lost all hope and has reverted to drinking his sorrows away. Only Allie can erase his pain, but the liqour at least may make him forget it for awhile. It is this kind of love that I believe we all search for, and for those of us, lucky enough to find it, it never leaves us. Unfortunately, sometimes the people we love do, and therefore, we find alternate ways to deal with the intense and constant pain the lost love has left. Fortunately for Noah though, Allie sees his picture in the paper standing by the house, and comes to see him. At first he is in complete shock, but the shock quickly wears off. Shortly after, Allie and Noah find the sparks and their romance is burning strong once again, or at least till Allie's mom, played wonderfully by Joan Allen, shows up a couple days later and lets her know Lon is on his way to town. Now Allie must decide between Lon and Noah, between society or her heart, between her family or her true love.
The Notebook is a classic love story, with all the ups and downs of love. However, this film gives us more than that. It gives us a true depiction of how other factors affect love, how parental influence and uprbringing can affect a great relationship, and how society and one's status in that particular society can dictate the future of love more than love itself does. But it also shows us that love, when real, can be stronger than any opponent it may encounter and can carry us humans to higher levels than any money or power could ever acheive. This movie breathes hope into the hopeless and gives us a sense that true love can conquer all!