6.28.2005

Debating "The Notebook": when a movie totally sucks -- or does it?

First, let me apologize for the length of this possibly pointless post, and for the slapdash, rough-draft quality of the prose in it. There is currently such a dearth of material on EG, though, that I figure throwing content up here can only help you waste more of your time -- it's only fair, because I clearly am wasting my own.

Now, to the point: I am currently embroiled in a debate with freshly scrubbed youngsters on a message board at IMDB.com about the movie The Notebook. The film is getting very high marks on that site after more than 10,000 votes, and the external reviews -- even The Onion's -- are actually mostly positive (except Rolling Stone's). Ebert gave it thumbs up! "Yeah, up his ASS!" I screamed at our DVD player as the full implications of what we had done in renting this... this... well, I think the ... film ... is a .. gosh, is a ... well, see for yourself. We join our story in progress...

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My wife and I watched "The Notebook" last night. Within ten minutes we were furious at how slow, cliche, and predictable it was. And then it just got worse and worse. It was so very very bad that we were actually drawn to watch in perverse, embarrassed horror as each scene plodded through stale, obvious dialog, and the actors tried to salvage what was obviously a terrible muddle by overacting. I can't begin to convey just how awful this movie is, in every sense. Leave aside the horrendously dull, cliche-ridden script, the terrible acting, the hamfisted directing, the swelling tear-jerker music, and the incredibly obvious plot -- Even the freaking costumes were terrible. The fake facial hair looked like it was done by 3rd-graders.

If movies are meant to fascinate, then this one did all right. I consider this the worst film I have seen in at least five years, but rarely if ever have I (and my wife) been compelled to stay all the way through such abysmal crap out of some sort of hilarious anger at how were were wasting our own time. I mean we were jumping on the couches and screaming in warped glee as each predictable plot point was tediously checked off the director's checklist. All the way to the very last shot (of the backstory) of her coming back and them hugging in a swirl of stock sentimental string music -- OF COURSE SHE COMES BACK.

And when (in the front story) they actually for God's sake died together, we could not stop howling with laughter and hitting each other with pillows -- not because we are heartless, oh no, we LOVE good movies -- but because for one, there was no hint that he was ill, so it was completely out of the blue, and two, there is no more cliche tear-jerker ending in the book. My God. Then I come here expecting to be vindicated and I find a bunch of glassy-eyed pod people who were actually taken in by this plodding, pathetic drivel. What in the world is up? I usually am with IMDB folks on their 7.8s, but man alive, folks, step away from the Kool-Aid.
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OMG! WTF IS UR PROBLEM?! IF YOU HAVE NOTHING NICE TO SAY DONT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL!! NAME ANY MOVIE, ANY MOVIE AT ALL THAT ISNT PREDICTABLE! im sorry, but that wasnt nice. some people actually like this movie, okay?...so if you dont like it, why are you even here?!...

and i also see that you have no other posts on IMDB. well, how cruel and stupid is it of u to hate this movie so much, that all u do is make an acount for IMDB just to trash this movie! okay, thats just stupid!
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I don't have a problem -- besides the $3.98 it stole from me. The MOVIE has a problem. I am merely trying to warn people. If I can ward away even 100 people, say, from spending their hard-earned cash on simplistic tripe like "The Notebook" -- from wasting precious little parts of their lives -- well, then I will feel I have done my job. That's why I'm here. I'm providing a free service for humanity.

btw, I don't recall reading in the board guidelines that only slavishly positive remarks were allowed. If I don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all? What is this, second grade? Difference of opinion is the spice of life.

And actually, yes, I created this account to express myself about this film -- that's how much it infuriated my aesthetic sensibilities. I thought that's what discussion forums were for. Correct me if I'm wrong. As for your helpful information that some people actually like this movie, that is abundantly clear from reading the other posts, and it was that very depressing fact that spurred me to action. As I said, it's my mission to save these poor deluded souls from the terrible error they have made in their artistic understanding and appreciation. That's my quest, and it is a noble one.
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wow, you are pretty pathetic. don't waste your time typing up your review of how much you hated this movie. no one wants to hear your details anyway.

the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
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EARTHGOAT, you and your wife must be pretty old, so i can understand why you wouldn't like it...

remember this movie is for people 35 and younger...

just like we don't like your OLDIES movies... so i can understand why you don't like the NEW movies...
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im sorry, but WE like the movie. and you can take your ugly attitude somewhere else! tell me, whats one of the movies you like??...huh??...
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well in the case of you and your wife, its just that you two are going through one of those mid age life crisis deals...

and i guess you aren't into love stories either... i don't see how can you say its worse than any other love story... i mean they generally have the same plot line...

i'd rather have movies that make sense, instead of movies like Mulholland Drive, Vanilla Sky, etc, where you have no idea what is going on, what the plot is, what is imagined or real...
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Actually, we're not going through one of those mid-life crisis deals. Again, the idea seems to be to shift the focus to something not the movie, to something you don't know anything about. My wife and I have been living our love story for eight years now, since way before this film was a bad idea on some producer's desk, and it hardly needs to be be mentioned that our love story has been ten times more exciting, magical, and meaningful than the empty and silly two-dimensional romance shown in "The Notebook," where the characters either tearfully or robotically spout obvious lines that reveal approximately a third-grader's idea of love. Actual love is rich and unpredictable and utterly mysterious -- you wouldn't believe our story if I told you.

Instead of spending your life and money fixing up some house because you promised some girl that blew you off that you would, for example, you might spend your time GROWING SOME BALLS and GETTING HER BACK so that you don't let her wind up with SOME OTHER GUY while you WASTED your life on some pointless SYMBOL instead of keeping your focus on HER. If you're a girl, instead of trusting your CRUEL AND HEARTLESS MOTHER to give you letters, GO TO THE MAILBOX ONCE IN A WHILE. Or gosh, WRITE HIM YOURSELF. CALL HIM. And try to remember to not GET ENGAGED TO A STIFF, DOLL-LIKE MAN. Or maybe tell your horrendous mother to GO SCREW HERSELF. But no, these two "love" each other so much, they meekly say "okay" to the slightest obstacles and let life drift by them until they nearly blow the whole thing. And why again should they be together? The movie doesn't bother to show us. God help us if folks think this is love.

If by "make sense" you mean "is obvious and simple and predigested for me so I don't have to think or be challenged about anything, only spoonfed a predictable malaise of recycled cliche garbage," then I think I understand things better now. Comparing this film to films like "Mulholland Drive" and "Vanilla Sky," though, is like comparing a paper airplane to the space shuttle. It sounds like you'd better stick with the paper airplane. In fact, even taken solely for the love stories those films contain, both are approximatley 17,459 times more interesting than the brainless drift the two characters in "The Notebook" force us to suffer through.

It seems I am not going to get even a half-hearted attempt to defend "The Notebook," which is hardly surprising, and that satisfies me that I was right all along, that there is no defense for it. Thanks to you all for the clarification and vidication. I'm sorry if you've been hurt by my remarks. Some pain is good, remember -- surgery hurts, for example, but it can save your life.
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ok, you just take movies too seriously and overanalyze it...

its the same for every movie, you can say, why didn't this character do this or that, and then they never would have had to go through the trouble...

but then there would be no point in making a movie about that, if there were NO obstacles, and if it were easy...
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are you even aware that this movie was based off of a book? you blame the director for the "predictable plot." the director didn't write the story. nicholas sparks did.
there was no "fake facial hair" either...it's pretty obvious that ryan gosling is old enough to grow a beard. they filmed the bearded shots before they filmed the clean-shaven shots.
are you serious when you said there was no hint that the old noah was ill? they talked about his heart attacks before he ACTUALLY HAD A HEART ATTACK towards the end of the movie.
if you hated the movie so much, why did you continue to watch it? i will never understand the logic of people who do that.

by the way, i love this movie. the two young actors were amazing together. they were not boring, or mindless, or cliched. they acted with passion and heart. they make you want to be in love. this was a good, romantic story. i know that people like to get on these boards to just get a rise out of people, which you have obviously done, but if you HONESTLY think this was a horrible film then do yourself a favor and don't ever watch it again.
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you do know the book and movie have some differences though...

so we don't know if they are complaining about parts where it was also in the book, or about parts just in the movie alone...

otherwise i agree with the rest of what you said...
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Ha ha! It's funny that you actually did find one detail where I was wrong. I had forgotten about Noah's heart attack. The perils of not truly caring about the characters or plot. Well done. The first and only dent in my armor. Makes virtually no difference to my main thrust though.

There most certainly was fake facial hair all over the place and very awful fake facial hair at that. Look at any character with a beard or mustache. You can practically see the glue. Of course Ryan can grow a beard (who can't?), but he didn't for this movie. It's the wrong color, etc. If I'm wrong, I will apologize, but I've seen a lotta facial hair in my time.

Yes, I am aware the movie was based on a book. The transition from one to the other usually does not work well, because directors make the mistake of just transferring the plot from one to the other, instead of building a movie organically from the ground up. They are two totally separate things -- you cannot lean on a book because the film will just lie there, flat and dead, as "The Notebook" does. Usually the more the director parts ways from the book, the better. Check out the war segment of "The Notebook." How utterly false, brief, jarringly pretty, and ultimately trivial a treatment of WWII! It's like they picked up the service uniforms at a party store and used Tennessee fireworks for howitzers and artillery. I haven't read the book, because I have heard it described as "sappy and boring" by a friend of mine (see reviews of the book for concurrence), but I have to think the book at least gave the war some weight. Movies just can't compete with books in terms of handling long stories. Not enough room.

Why did I keep watching if I hated it? Well, like I said in my first post, I had never done that before. I had stayed on in certain cases for five, ten minutes, jaw dropped, indignant anger in my eyes, but always I gave up and switched the thing off in annoyance. This time ... it was so bad I just had to see how bad it would get. In a perverse way, I was not disappointed. And if you asked me "Did you enjoy The Notebook"? I would have to say yes! I had a great time watching it, though not for the reasons the director intended.

About the directing: Sure the script was crap and the acting wooden and bloodless, but a great director can get over even those obstacles. Look at many episodes of Twin Peaks -- deliberately bad script and acting, and yet there is a compassion and energy there that is infectious and fascinating, drawing in the viewer. A very, very subtle art, directing. You could give the script of "The Notebook" to David Lynch and he could make an intelligent movie of it. Why is that? Because in the end movies are about directing.

Music is also important. Music can make or break a film's mood. The music in "The Notebook" was the absolute worst of the worst, never failing to take advantage of the audience and manipulate the basest, most primary-color blunt and basic emotions. Again, it's like a third-grader did the music. Music in David Lynch, to stretch a really unfair comparison, is extremely subtle, supportive, suggestive, the perfect light touch, or when it's a heavy touch it complements the visual action and fits thematically and structurally.

As for never watching this horrendous embarrassment to filmmaking again... I dunno. My wife and I are seriously considering watching it again, during which we will painstakingly track just what it is that is so offensive and infuriating about its terribleness. I am really interested -- I'm not just trying to get a rise out of people. I am trying to pin down and describe precisely what it is that I object to so viscerally about this film. Clearly plenty of other people like it. Why? The film must be defined, stripped, searched, its pockets emptied -- a full physical. It's important to me (and to my career) to be clear and precise and totally honest about aesthetic jusgments. This movie seems to exist outside the equations of my personal artistic philosophy, like a black hole in space or a new species of worm discovered in a deep-sea volcanic vent.

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ok. if you watch the movie again then you need to watch it on dvd that way you can watch the extras at the end in which the director and ryan gosling clearly states that he grew a beard and gained weight for the second half of the movie.

anyways i do agree with you on the part where you say "and why again should they be together" "the movie doesnt bother to show us". totally true. i loved this movie only b/c i believe in that kind of love and the whole growing old part and still loving someone after all those years. the only thing i didnt like is the fact that they didnt build noahs character to the point that you would know for a fact that allie would choose him. of course you knew b/c it was predictable but i just wish they that could have set noah apart from lon which they didnt do to well. i mean think about it. lon loved allie, he had money, and he was very cute. noah also loved allie, had money but was not rich like lon, and is also very sexy. but the movie doesnt actually show why it is so easy for her to just go back to noah. the only thing that the movie shows is that she doesnt paint when shes with lon and that lon works all the time. i really dont know how to explain it but i think they needed to play on noahs love a little more that way it would show hoe easy it was to go back to him.


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well have fun with that then. though it seems to me like a waste of time. you obviously have made up your mind about the film. and now you might rewatch it just to analyze what you truly hated about it? unless you are a film critic, i don't see why anyone would do that.
and i will tell you why i think so many people like this movie. the majority of people in this world are in love with love. they want to find it and experience it and maybe one day grow old and die with it. and this, my friend, is a love story to the very end.

p.s. ryan gosling's beard was most definitely real in the movie.
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ok. if you watch the movie again then you need to watch it on dvd that way you can watch the extras at the end in which the director and ryan gosling clearly states that he grew a beard and gained weight for the second half of the movie.

anyways i do agree with you on the part where you say "and why again should they be together" "the movie doesnt bother to show us". totally true. i loved this movie only b/c i believe in that kind of love and the whole growing old part and still loving someone after all those years. the only thing i didnt like is the fact that they didnt build noahs character to the point that you would know for a fact that allie would choose him. of course you knew b/c it was predictable but i just wish they that could have set noah apart from lon which they didnt do to well. i mean think about it. lon loved allie, he had money, and he was very cute. noah also loved allie, had money but was not rich like lon, and is also very sexy. but the movie doesnt actually show why it is so easy for her to just go back to noah. the only thing that the movie shows is that she doesnt paint when shes with lon and that lon works all the time. i really dont know how to explain it but i think they needed to play on noahs love a little more that way it would show hoe easy it was to go back to him.

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well have fun with that then. though it seems to me like a waste of time. you obviously have made up your mind about the film. and now you might rewatch it just to analyze what you truly hated about it? unless you are a film critic, i don't see why anyone would do that.
and i will tell you why i think so many people like this movie. the majority of people in this world are in love with love. they want to find it and experience it and maybe one day grow old and die with it. and this, my friend, is a love story to the very end.

p.s. ryan gosling's beard was most definitely real in the movie.
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lol..that has to be one of the funniest post i've seen!! you're really trying hard to diss it lol!!! fake beard come on!!!!!! you're trying to hard now..you know very well that is not the case..unless you're T.V has a defect on it. Look earthgoat, let's face it love stories has two outcome you either going to love or hate it and just like Ryan Gosling said that movie is not made for everybody some people will love it and some will hate it and i have to agree with that. So it is not your cup of tea it's cool! just don't invest all your energy on a movie you hate..that ridiculous!!!

19 comments:

Pete said...

This reminds me of "Kindergarten Cop." It's not a toomagh!

A more perfect analogy: "The Notebook" is to middle school girls as "The War in Iraq" is to Bush admininstration officials.

Jane said...

I've started avoiding message boards like the one on IMDB for this reason -- it's so aggravating and disheartening to see what idiots people are. And how badly they spell.

On the upside, I'm sure it is middle school girls that you're dealing with here, and you can't be too hard on them for having lousy/sentimental taste in movies. When I was in middle school I saw "Beaches" three times. (Shudder)

Jane said...

All that being said, thank you for posting the exchange. It's pretty damned funny. My favorite part is when we learn that there's nothing more important than to love and be loved. Ah, yes.

Brando said...

The rule of "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" is the stupidest fucking saying in all of the English language. Saying things that are nasty is much more intersting than saying things that are nice. That's why reviews of crap are much more entertaining than reviews of good films.

As for predictability...I can think of a few films right off the bat (Memento, Pulp Fiction, 2001, Rushmore, and MP and the Holy Grail) that were complete surprises.

As for not visiting message boards, I find the combination of vitriol and hyperbole form a virtual fountain of youth that keeps me young without the aid of virgin blood. Way to stick to your guns and bring literacy to the Cheeto-stained (m)asses, Grendel.

SER said...

This was awesome! Thank you for posting it, Grendel. I was howling with amusement.

Pete said...

Speaking of reviews of crap... I'm just now handing in one for a book that many of us have probably been looking forward to for awhile. And it blows. I don't think I can say anymore about it until it hits the presses.

Pete said...

and its not someone we know or anything like that.

Jane said...

Oh, jeez, Pete! The suspense is killing me!! Can you at least provide a clue?

Grendel said...

Pete, surely a clue wouldn't kill anyone? (whines Grendel)

I am a little dismayed to learn that I am dealing with schoolgirls. Not as comfortable with that. By the way, there is an update I have tacked on. Will reply tomorrow or so. I'll keep updating this post.

Pete said...

I think you could probably figure it out by looking at what is coming out in the next month.

I can't say anymore. I don't think I can, anyway. What are the rules with this sort of thing?

Grendel said...

I see what you mean. If you clue us, we guess, then you'll have to confirm or deny.

So is it John Irving?

Jane said...

Cormac McCarthy?

Of course, it's up to you, but I don't see, ethically speaking, why you can't say what it is...people read advance copies of books all the time and submit reviews / register opinions. Por ejemplo, I could have told you four months ago that Charles Chadwick's newly released "It's all right now" sucks. (I read it thru HarperCollins 'First Look' program, and felt vindicated this week to see the NYT reviewer felt the same way....)

cek said...

Grendel, that whole exchange on IMDB is like a prelude to a George Saunders story or something. Hilarious.

Also, Pete, can you tell us the last letter of the author's first name? Or SOMETHING?

SER said...

If Pete reviewed this for pay, the publisher of the review might have rights in some way or another (MSF, help?) that would keep him from sneak-previewing it now. I want to keep Pete out of trouble, so I suggest he wait for advice from MSF or El Gordo de Amore.

bihari said...

Grendel, my husband wants to know what I'm reading that has me howling with laughter...I had been having a dreadfully child-ridden evening, and this post just cheered me right up. (And I share your take on the movie, btw). And re the message board, perhaps you should take to heart the advice my Great Uncle Trumbull (seriously; I am not making the anecdote OR the name up) gave to my Great Uncle Charles. When the latter remarked thoughtfully one day, "It's amazing how dumb people are," Great Uncle Trumbull said, "Charles! It's unfortunate, but we don't dwell on it!"

Pete said...

SER- my concern exactly. If I knew where my contract was (I actually, I do: it is somewhere beneath one pile of shit and on top of another pile of shit, somewhere in this apartment), I'd go check. But I'm pretty certain. Sorry for saying anything.

Antoine said...

Epic exchange. Made my day. aw

chad said...

Fantastic. the final part of the post proper is one of the best things i have read in months. I am definately using "fake beard / come on!" in a poem

Patry Francis said...

I haven't seen the movie or read the book. What I have read is the author's website, in which he tells the story of how his agent sold the book in three days for some obscene sum.