Sunday, April 22, 2012

Movie Review/Rant: Nicholas Sparks Is a Talentless Hack and Not Even Ryan Gosling Can Save "The Notebook"

All washed up.

I finally forced myself to see The Notebook (2004) in its excruciating entirety a few days ago, and when the last scene faded to black, I heard an irate screech of "I hate this!" and realized I was yelling at my TV.  Yeah, that really happened.  Yeah, the ending is that bad.  In fact, the entire flick is that bad.  Not even Internet sweetie-pie and damsel-rescuing meme-meister Ryan Gosling could save this turkey, though millions of sappy moviegoers disagree with me.  Sure, that famous "kiss in the rain" was kind of hot, but that was one scene out of two hours of deplorable scriptwriting, hyperinflated melodrama, overcooked sentimentality, and bluntly obvious, ham-fisted emotional manipulation of the worst tearjerking sort.  Also, much as it pains me to say this, Ryan Gosling isn't worth your subjecting yourself to the torture that is this flick.  For your own sake, please, please go watch ANY OTHER RYAN GOSLING MOVIE.

I should have known.  I had hated A Walk to Remember (2002), and I had hated it with a fiery gut-shredding passion.  I had, though, forgotten for one crucial moment that the same guy was responsible for both these miserable vomitous masses.  First things first: I blame the source, "author" Nicholas Sparks (and I use the term in only the loosest sense possible).  I was about to launch into a full diatribe, but I find that Cracked.Com has already done it for me.  Yay!  Take a look at this magnificent venom, complete with awesomely trenchant infographic that Noli Me Tangere alerted me to (Warning: Spoilers).  

Sparks is like the romance-novel equivalent of Thomas Kinkade, about whom I'm now supposed to say only nice things because he recently died, but, look, I can only be honest, and I'm telling you that his painting was horrible in its numbing, oh-so-twee cuteness and passionless -- indeed stultifying and even demoralizing -- blandness.  It belonged on greeting cards and chocolate boxes and hotel walls.  It was visual filler.  It was all basically the same.  It wasn't art that grabbed you by the heart and throat and gut like really good art should.  It would never get unforgettably under your skin the way individual pieces with personality like Munch's Scream or Michelangelo's Pieta.  Kinkade art just lulls you into a sentimental stupor devoid of all profundity whatsoever.

But onto Sparks, who not only does the same sort of generic thing with his books but somehow makes it even worse by attempting to make his rubbishy romances into transcendent tragedies by hurling every predictable cliched obstacle you can think of at his various interchangeable lovers.  (And apparently people like garbage, because both Sparks  and Kinkade are/were laughing all the way to the bank.  Ditto that horrifying Stephenie "I spawned Twilight to be the enemy of God and man" Meyer.)

The Female Lead: I wanted to smack Rachel McAdams' character Allie Hamilton repeatedly - OK, pretty much constantly from the first moment she showed up on screen.  What a shrill little harridan in the making, and her mother (Joan Allen) is even worse.  In fact, Allen's "performance" is an embarrassment.  Ugh.  Some of the dialogue is just unreal, and Gosling's character Noah isn't immune from the horrible scriptwriting either.  OK, I have to say, though, that he turns in the least objectionable performance of the entire production because he underplays - as he always does - and in this case it works really well against McAdams' screechy overacting.  Trust Gosling to pull something halfway decent from this horrible flick, though the movie itself does him repeated violence.

No, This Is Not Romantic:  This critic has said pretty much everything that I wanted to point out.  I can't resist quoting this: "The movie not only approaches a level of shamelessness you have to see to disbelieve, it does it in a manner that’s both inept and crass." You don't say! What's worse is the director's complete disregard for the intelligence of the audience.  

The Ending: You have got to be kidding me.  You have got to be friggin' kidding me!  You want me to think this was ... what, moving?  Something other than horrifying and more than a little creepy?  NO!

No, no, no.  No to all of this.  If you want a rom-com that's funny and touching and actually displays some nuance in the depiction and exploration of human emotions and relationships, do yourself a massive favor and go watch Crazy, Stupid, Love.  (UPDATE: See this too.)

Mad Minerva gives The Notebook a grade of D.  That's two hours of my life I'm never getting back.  Now you'll excuse me if I go watch Drive to make me forget all this mind-numbing, soul-shredding sentimental banality.  Bring on the synth-pop soundtrack and artful bloody mayhem, please.

RottenTomatoes gives it the Rotten rating of 52%.

The Notebook runs 123 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some sexual situations.

Shoot, if you want some actual fun, you should just go watch these 2 minutes.  I swear it's hotter and funnier than the whole darn movie.  One quibble, though: Sweetie, get rid of that gum!

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