Essay: It turns out I have very strong feelings about the movie the Notebook.

 In All (-ish), Writing

Be aware!  This here essay is rife with spoilers.  So if you want to keep the plot of the Notebook undiscovered, stop reading.  But if you have seen it, or you plan on never seeing it, read on to discover why this is not a sweet, romantic film, it is C-R-E-E-P-Y!

Let’s look at the first meeting of Noah and Allie.  Noah, (Ryan Gosling) asks who this Allie (Rachel McAdams) is and his friend Finn explains.  Then, despite the fact that she walks up to him with not one but two guys on her arm, Noah leads by saying, “Do you want to dance?”  Note that they are not at a dance, they are at a fair.  There may be a dance at the fair, but there is no dance in the frame of the camera. Allie, quite rightly, says no and flounces off to ride the Ferris Wheel.  What an awkward beginning for Noah. I’m willing to give him a pass because maybe he’s nervous or so overcome by Allie’s beauty he makes an awkward move.  Who hasn’t done that?
But then Noah leaps onto the Ferris Wheel, landing in the same car as Allie and another man.  If this happened to you, would it be romantic?  No, it would be super creepy.  Even if the person who did it looked like Ryan Gosling (who I do not find attractive at all because I think he looks like a hamster, but I am aware that many women don’t see his hamster qualities, and instead find him rather dreamy).  You would not be attracted to this weird man because you don’t know this person and also invading space like that is wrong, there’s a reason we each have our own bubble.  Plus, there’s a weight limit on those Ferris Wheel cars, what if they crashed to the ground?
So maybe Noah is just weirdly enthusiastic and we can give him another pass? Okay, just because it is Ryan Gosling and so many women like him, let’s do that.  So what does he do then?  He blackmails Allie into saying she will go out on a date with him by hanging from the Ferris Wheel, threatening to plunge to his death.  Allie agrees to keep herself from witnessing a real-life death/maiming, but is her agreement good enough for him?  No it is not.  He makes her say she wants to go out with him loudly and repeatedly before he climbs back into the car.   Ladies, once again, put yourself in Allie’s place.  Is being blackmailed into a date
okay?  Is the potential date’s need not just for the date but for a loud proclamation of the desire to date the man in question okay?  I hope you have come to the same conclusion as me, but just in case, I will say it straight:  no it is not okay, it is rather disturbing.
Moving right along. Noah remains persistent about the coerced outing and eventually they go out together.  So here’s a guy on a date with a woman he is very into.  He is so into her, he risked life and limb, et cetera.  What does this guy who is crazy about this woman do on the very first date he takes her on?  He says, “You know what your problem is?” and then tells her what he thinks her problem is.  Gentlemen.  On what date is it okay to begin pronouncing your view of the flaws of your date?  Ah!  Trick question.  It’s not okay on any date.  If your date needs to deliver a diagnosis of your supposed flaws, then this person is not the person for you and the date should end.  It is never romantic to say, “do you know what your problem is?” because, really, who are you to say?
So then there’s a bunch of shoddy tell-don’t-show film making wherein we find out that Allie and Noah were crazy about each other and they fought all the time.  Again, there isn’t enough character development to find out why they fight all the time and why exactly they are so into each other, but I can say that if you are mostly fighting with the person you supposedly love, it’s probably not so much love and you should probably part ways and find someone you don’t fight with.
Then, there is a cruel parting and Allie is whisked away by her parents (who, as far as I was concerned, were right on the money) and Noah writes one letter per day to Allie for an entire year and she never writes back.  We know that Allie’s mother is intercepting the letters and she doesn’t know about them. I want to go on record as saying this is wrong of Allie’s mother and I don’t condone it.  However, after a year, Noah does the healthiest thing he does in the entire movie and moves on.  Or, at least, he stops writing to her.
Noah goes off to war, his tiny friend dies, he comes back and his father, happy to fan the flames of obsession, goes in with him to purchase a decrepit mansion where Noah and Allie almost had (or did have, I don’t think the film is clear on this point) sex.  Noah throws himself into restoring the decrepit mansion just the way Allie would like it.  He also grows a creepy-guy beard, perhaps to show us how focused/determined/crazy he is.  It is not an attractive beard and actually I question if Mr. Gosling–he of the fair hair–could actually grow such a hearty specimen. In fact, though I do not think Ryan Gosling is dreamy, as stated above, (hamster) overall in this movie, he did a lot with his eyes and I sort of had a window into the mmmmmmmRyanGoslingmmmmmmm world.  But that
beard during all the big reunion scenes? No ma’am, it did not work for me.
Someone who completely restores a house, and works obsessively (a word the film actually uses) to renovate it the way someone said once, five years ago.  Is that someone capital-R Romantic?  Or big-C-stay-away-from-me CREEPY?  I think we know the answer.  Think of someone you haven’t been in contact with for a while.  Say you run into them, go for coffee, and you find out that they had built a shrine to you in their backyard.  That’s the moment when you fake an emergency call and leave the coffee shop.
So that’s all Noah and Allie back in the day.  And that’s bad enough.  But  interspersed with the supposedly tragic story of the lovers is the present-day story of a sweet old couple who we later find out are Ryan and Allie.  And when I say present-day, I mean the 80s or 90s or some such thing, it was hard to tell from the clothing.
Present-day Allie (Gena Rowlands) has dementia and present-day Noah (James Garner, a man much more substantial than hamster Gosling,) has moved into the care facility where Allie lives so he can read from the notebook where Allie wrote their story, the same notebook that gives us the title of the movie.  As the movie progresses, we see Noah tell their story to an uncomprehending Allie, ignoring the advice of a doctor and insisting that the story always brings Allie back to him. In fact, Allie has even written in the front of the notebook that he should do this.  So he spends the day reading the story to her so she will return.
And she does “come back” and they have a dance and catch up on the news and this is all so very sweet.   It lasts for five minutes and then Allie forgets again and completely freaks out and has to be held down and sedated.
I ask you, is this the motivation of a loving man?  Nope.  It’s just Noah, being as obsessed and creepy as he was in his younger years.  If Allie is quite happy not
knowing who she is or who the nice man reading the story to her is, wouldn’t it be more loving and caring to just let things be? But no!  Let’s have the five
minutes of recognition followed by the potent drug cocktail.  It’s completely worth it.
And it goes on!
The film ends when Noah sneaks into Allie’s room, she “comes back” and mentions how nice it would be if their love can “take them away together.”   So they hold hands, fall asleep and die at the same time.  I’m sorry, but dying at
the same time as your spouse falls into the creepy category, not the “oh how
romantic” category.  Noah’s got three children and two grandchildren whom he clearly adores and instead of just letting things be, and hanging out with his family, he goes off and dies at the same time as his wife.  Several women
have said they think this is sweet and maybe if I hadn’t just watched 122 minutes of creepy behavior it would be sweet, but, alas, I had watched 122 minutes of obsession and that puts dying together into that same “ew” category.
So, dear reader, I implore you to continue watching this movie if you find it lovely and romantic. But if you find yourself in this same situation in real life? You might want to check the creepy meter.  It’s probably running pretty high.
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Showing 9 comments
  • Debrarian

    Ha! I love this review. I have not seen the movie, but even if it were a good movie I can't imagine that it would be more satisfying than this review. After I read it I tried searching for "Ryan Gosling hamster" and found a whole slew of "Hey girl"-meme images, including one about freeing the hamsters. I don't really see the hamster resemblance, but I also definitely don't see the Gosling attraction, either. He kind of reminds me of Nicholas Cage. Although now I have just seen a "Hey girl" shot referring to cat videos in which I can kind of see hamster about his ears.

  • Patricia

    Thanks Deborah. I see Mr. Gosling's hamster in the slim build of his face and his rather tiny, beady eyes. I also call Richard Gere "Mole Man" because of his beady eyes and somewhat mole-looking face. Apparently, I have a think about eyes.

  • balyien

    Haha, thanks for the laughs. This essay made me glad that I've never been interested in seeing or reading The Notebook. It's very obvious it was written by a man. Frankly, it makes me a little bit sad for Nicholas Sparks's wife.

    On the other hand, I've heard that Stephanie Mayer's work also contains a lot of allegedly-romantic-but-actually-creepy stuff, i.e. Edward stalking Bella & watching her while she sleeps. I've started to feel concerned about how these books/movies impact young women's expectations of relationships. I read a lot of fan fiction, which seems to mostly be written by young women, and a lot of times their idea of romance is really stalking/possessiveness/creepy domineering. I hope it's not how these young women truly expect their relationships to be.

    In closing, have you seen Skyfall? If not, I don't think this is a huge spoiler, so I hope it's okay to say. There's a scene where Bond sneaks onto a ship and joins a woman (who he's met once before) in the shower without her permission. Instead of screaming, she proceeds to let him sex her up. I thought that was some serious WTF.

  • Patricia

    It's not like men can't write good romantic stories, but this was not romantic at all.

    And yes, I found Twilight incredibly creepy. He's 97 years old (or whatever) what does he see in a 17-year-old girl? And because he doesn't need to sleep, he spends most nights watching her sleep. Even before they get together. Ewwwwww. I was not writing essays when I read the first two Twilight books, but man, there was a lot to write about. I probably could have done a series.

    I've not seen Skyfall, but I have heard about the shower scene. Wherever I read about it was a woman saying, "in the real world, this is not okay."

    This makes me wonder, what are some good movies with romantic plot points where the relationship is a healthy one?

  • Sara K.

    I love this essay. Laughed out loud at some points, too. I m of the hamster loving masses! You did give me a completely different perspective on the movie. By this standard, doe it mean Lloyd Dobbler is not as romantic as I thought. I loved the boom box scene, but is that creepy? Does he get a pass because he's a teenager? I do think that's a pretty healthy relationship. What about Far and Away? That is still one of my top 5 romantic movies? That's a pretty good relationship.

  • Patricia

    I say Llyod Dobbler is not creepy because it was a one-time thing and also I feel like they were equals in that relationship. Also, Lloyd Dobbler has enough smarts to think that dying at the same time as Ione Skye is stupid. I can't remember Far and Away and I sadly can't watch it because Mr. Cruise has rendered himself unwatchable in my book. The parts I remember seem like he had all the power. She didn't even know how to wash her clothes. But maybe there were more details I am forgetting?

  • Shawn Shafer

    You're not the only one who thinks the setup is problematic:

  • Patricia

    Hah! "A movie so generic, yet inexplicably popular…"

    I love it.

  • Sara K.

    Okay. Fair enough. You are right about Far and Away! I guess my inner romantic brain-washes my inner feminist and it's all over!

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