CHICK FLICK DATING TIP: Gents, the best place to meet women is your local Old Folks Home, where every date is a new date, thanks to Alzheimer’s.
Old fogey Maverick, a bewildered Gloria, a Smitten Hobo, Not-Michelle-Monaghan, Snidely Whiplash the Evil Daddy, The Contender of Crabby Moms, Casanova Cyclops, the Cassavettes grave-stomper, that little dude who’s not Turtle from that HBO show that everyone loves for some Godforsaken reason, airport author Sparks, and the Trapper Keeper of Love.
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The present. Duke (James Garner) is a resident in a rest home who reads a love story to an Alzheimer’s patient (Gena Rowlands) everyday. Her memory has eroded due to her debilitating disease, and Dukes does his best to keep her company in the hope that she may one day regain her composure. The story is a romance about two star-crossed lovers from two different worlds set in the 1940s. Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) have shared a lifetime of turmoil and devotion in their short courtship. Their small town love story is one fraught with heartache and passion as Allie comes from a world of money and privilege, while dirt-poor Noah doesn’t have two pennies to buy a two-penny pot to piss in. But despite their tax brackets, the relationship is steamy and volatile, the very stuff of gushy hayseed romance. Allie’s society-conscious parents (David Thornton and Joan Allen) break up the hot and heavy pairing and Allie is shipped off to college while Noah joins the Army. He writes to Allie everyday, but treacherous Mom keeps the letters away from her while Dad twirls his ridiculous mustache and laughs maniacally. Allie moves to New York and meets debonair Lon (James Marsden) and falls madly in love. When Noah returns from the war, he restores a lakeside mansion after selling the family home and getting a G.I. loan, something he promised to do for Allie when they were together. But it looks as if Allie has moved on and Noah plunges into a world of despair, depression, and carpentry. But fate brings the two together again, and a heart-breaking choice will need to be made. There are boo-hoos a plenty as we discover that the patient is Allie, all old and befuddled, and Duke is the old Noah reading from a notebook written by Allie so that she will never forget their lifetime of love. And you will see the ending coming like an army of pink-assed baboons screeching Zippity-Doo-Dah in Easter bonnets and Paul Gautier feather skirts down Park Avenue.
Nicholas Sparks is one of those authors I’ve heard about, but don’t really know, who is either loved or hated, and whose overpriced hardcovers line every shelf of airport gift shops only to wind up on the 75% off bin three weeks later. And yet the guy keeps writing lousy books (Message in a Bottle) which keep getting made into lousy movies (Message in a Bottle). The Notebook is another butt-sappy, boring as a bag of roof tiles, ruthlessly manipulative tearjerker carefully engineered for the dullard Sparks fan who might be intimidated by the latest Mitch Albom drivel. Here you have your standard boy-meets-girl -loses-girl-regains-girl- marries-girl- loses-memory- curls-up-and-dies concept complete with sweeping music, cookie-cutter supporting cast, syrupy nostalgia, and tragic but uplifting ending about characters I couldn’t care less about. Actually, if I hadn’t nodded off here and there, I probably would have cared less. Gosling is a current indie film idol ready to break out into the mainstream and was wonderful in Lars and the Real Girl and Half Nelson. But here, his puppy-dog eyes and scruffy, whiney, childish antics made it very difficult to believe he’d grow into Jim Rockford, let alone land someone like McAdams/Rowlands. Speaking of which, McAdams was full of life as Allie, and perhaps presented the most effective performance of the cast. She is wry and energetic and her pouty and conflicted portrayal brought the only level of interest to the story. Viewers have spoken of this movie’s power to capture you despite its calculated maudlin patronizing, something which you can probably attribute to the impressive casting. But no, that didn’t happen with me. I saw a couple of old geezers reminiscing about the past and preparing for the end, while the two Nicks (Sparks and director Cassavettes) desperately attempt to eke out a multiplex of lumpy throats by placing the bucket squarely in front of feet for which to kick it. Jeez, why didn’t they throw in a dead puppy, a dying TV clown, and a bored-as-hell masked movie blogger for good measure?