10 years later and I still love ‘The Notebook’
This week marks 10 years since I sat in a darkened movie theater, mesmerized by The Notebook. It had everything I’ve ever wanted in a romance: young love, lost love and a determined man who will stop at nothing to get the girl. Ryan Gosling was certainly the cherry on top.
I’m probably one of a million girls who either own the movie or can’t help but watch when it’s playing a non-stop weekend on cable. The cold hard truth is that Noah and Allie’s story has stuck with me for an entire decade. And I’ll probably still be watching another decade from now.
I understand that’s not the case for some people. Not everyone is romantic. The fact that I’ve dedicated an entire post to a lovey dovey movie is entirely confusing to the logical, realistic brain. In fact, some reading this sentence are contemplating if they should maneuver their mouse over to the little “x” to close the window.
I suggest you keep reading.
One day a few years ago, I received a phone call from my friend Some Guy in Austin. I was sitting at my desk, drinking a Dr Pepper, when he said something that stopped me in my creative writing tracks.
SGIA: I think I’m going to write a review on The Notebook.
SGIA: Of course, I’ll make it me, but I think that it would be insightful. My readers would enjoy my take on the movie.
Me: Okay, I need you to listen very carefully. The Notebook is sacred ground. You have to be very careful. Tread lightly my confident friend.
SGIA: How’s this for an ending? The point of The Notebook is that no matter how much you love a woman she will inevitably go crazy and drive you to an early death.
That’s like me saying the point of Scarface is a gentle reminder to take your daily Valium and no matter how bad things get, friends are not machine guns. Saying hello to one would be silly and foolish.
I yelled in protest. It sounded like a baby pterodactyl. Anyone within earshot of my phone knew I was appalled.
Me: You’re crazy.
SGIA: I’m money.
The next 24 hours were full of heartburn. I was afraid for my friend. I was nervous that women all over the globe would burn their bras in protest and vow to never, ever return to his website. Post day, finally arrived.
Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.
My eyes dart across the screen. The intro is funny. It’s true to Some Guy’s form. This may not be bad! Perhaps he took my advice!
And then I get to the opening sentence.
The movie begins with soft music and some guy rowing on a lake at sunrise while some old broad looks knowingly out the window as if she was trying to remember where she’d seen geese before. I was already bored stiff.
What? Excuse me but some guy is none other than the wonderfully talented, sweet, hot, Southern Noah Calhoun. How dare you sir! And don’t talk about Allie that way! And how can you be bored? You’ve sat through roughly a minute of the opening montage.
I knew it was all down hill from this point on. Here are some of the most memorable of his cynical, macho, uncompromisingly male thoughts. Proceed with caution.
Noah butts into Allie’s date and Allie’s date sits there like a pansy in a flowerbed despite his date being openly hit on by Noah. Perhaps her date was bored with him as well. At any rate, Noah climbs the Ferris wheel where Allie and her date are riding and proceeds to hang from the ride one handed until she agrees to go out with him. Whatever. If I had been Allie’s date Noah would have been forced to swallow his Brad Pitt hat long before the stunt on the Ferris wheel. Also, if Allie had agreed to go on a date with him while I was shelling out cash for carnival rides and Ferris wheels, she would have been walking her romantic ass all the way home. Romantic moment or not, dance with the one who brought you, Allie. Trolling for men while you’re on a date is not cool; especially in front of your date.
1. Noah does not just butt into Allie’s date. He is drawn to her. Like a moth to a flame. He can’t help but hop up onto the Ferris wheel and risk life and limb to convince her that he is unequivocally in love with her. It only took a moment. And he was smitten.
2. You make a good point about shelling out cash for carnival rides while your date agrees to go out with lumberjacks. I guess I get that.
Noah takes Ali to a dilapidated plantation home called Windsor Mansion and exposes her to the dangers of unstable ceilings and flammable, brittle wood. He tells her of his dream of restoring the place if only he had the money to do it.
Exactly! It’s his dream. And he wants her to be a part of it. The dream is not complete unless there are blue shutters and a porch that wraps around the house and room facing the river where she can paint.
She loves Noah so much that—get this–she boozes it up with the rich folks at fancy galas and eventually gets engaged to Lon Hammond and his money.
No, no, no! Noah was her first love. Her one true love. She thought he didn’t want to be with her. She had to push away the pain. She had to live her life and go back to the routine that her Mama and Daddy structured for her. Booze helps. And so does James Marsden. Good Lord he is smokin’.
Noah even manages to include a furniture shop for himself and a painting studio for Allie complete with the symbolic blank canvas awaiting her return. I assumed the canvas symbolized Gosling’s absence of depth rather than Noah’s undying desire for a blank future with Allie.
That blank canvas clearly represents Noah’s undying desire for a future with Allie. And Gosling plays the part beautifully. It’s not absence of depth. He is hopelessly trying to stay afloat in a sea of raw, bitter emotion. There’s no joy left because the only bright light he ever had in his life was a girl who stole his heart one summer in Seabrook.
Sparing her the details of his arduous battlefield missive writing, he instead throws her in a rowboat and takes her to see a flock of digitally created geese in a swamp and pretends like they are romantic symbols of their love rather than the angry, noisy, disease carrying fowl that they really are.
Okay. I sort of get this, only because I think birds are dirty. But the storyline called for a moment where our wayward lovers get caught in a rainstorm in which Ryan Gosling could properly display his sculpted muscles clinging to a wet linen shirt while rowing a boat in the middle of a river. It was hot. The chemistry was there.
On the way back to the perfectly renovated mansion Noah confesses that he is not, in fact, Amish even though he dresses like he is, wears a beard like an Amish person, and builds wooden furniture. He tells Allie that he’s dedicated his every waking moment since that day on the Ferris wheel to her happiness, even at the cost of his own. As it begins to pour Allie has the balls to drop a “why didn’t you write me.”
I will be honest. This made me laugh. He totally looks Amish. The outfit, the beard, the humble spirit and the furniture barn. Touché.
Allie then makes the conscious decision to cheat on her rich, understanding, good looking, tolerant, well-mannered, doting, successful, non-possessive, supportive, giant ring-buying, sensitive fiancé and ends up getting slammed against an antique cupboard while ripping off Noah’s wet, Amish clothes and throwing them on the newly finished wood floor where they undoubtedly soaked into the finish and ruined that section of the wood before Noah ravishes her in the same bed that he ravished the war widow in the day before. Details.
Yeah. This part always bugged me. Cheating is uncool.
I’m exhausted with emotion and I’m only half-way through the post. What more could Some Guy have to say? He’s taken a somewhat perfectly good love story and broken it down into cave man pieces. I was intrigued that there was more to discuss.
In true Some Guy fashion, he has a thought-provoking moment with his readers. For example:
Picture this movie:
A poor, attractive, hard working girl from a single parent home with no money ventures out to the state fair where she meets the man of her dreams who is from a well-to-do family vacationing for the summer on the rich side of her town. They fall madly in love and spend a summer sharing the simple things that make life worth living. Eventually, the man’s parents send him away from the town and the woman is heartbroken. She spends hours upon hours writing letters in hopes of his return. She pines for him relentlessly seeking solace in no one and dedicating her entire existence to the hope of his return.
He goes to school, lives the fast life and beds dozens of women while living off his family money. He eventually falls in love with another woman with family money who supports him and buys him everything he wants. He accepts her affection and proposes a marriage of convenience only to return to town years later and pray on the affections of the dedicated woman. He lies to his friends and family and moves into the woman’s house where she has kept a room for him despite his lack of contact. He cheats on his fiancé and eventually calls of the wedding so he can be with the other woman.
Not the same movie, is it?
I would snatch that girl up and tell her to stop moping around like a depressed, homely old maid and get out there where the action is!
Fully expecting Some Guy to make another blatantly negative point about a movie I’ve held so close to my heart since 2004, he jukes and offers up a steaming hot pile of gushy love. He recaps the movie again, channeling his inner soft side. I was not expecting that. He used words like, “love language” and “dedicating his existence” and “fulfilled and smitten heart.” I implore you to read it in its entirety.
He insightfully ends with this gem: “The larger picture is that true love never dies and that every woman wants to feel as loved and secure as Allie ultimately ended up feeling—everything else be damned.”
Huh. I pause and have a very Carrie Bradshaw moment. My keyboard and computer face a beige wall with a bulletin board sporting a haphazard array of Post-It notes instead of a quaint New York City street on the upper east side, but the electricity in the air is still the same as I dictate a question to myself…
Is romance still alive?
Take Some Guy for instance. His honest portrayal, even though it felt like my heart was being ripped from my throat a few times, was appreciated. He allowed us a brief peek in the inner workings of the male brain. But then he turns the tables around, and scores a direct hit (in my opinion) on exactly what I feel when I watch The Notebook. It’s like he’s in my brain. Coincidence?
I think not.
His dual cynical/emotional approach to the movie review gives me hope that there are guys out there who refuse to let romance die. They either embrace that part of their heart…or fake it to impress the dame.
The question is: do I care?
There is an extremely romantic scene in the movie that I rewind over and over and over again. No, it’s not the extended love scene found on the “special features” section of the DVD.
I’ve always preferred this one:
I love his gaze at the beginning. His head finally figures out what his heart has been telling him–she really is something special. He wants to hold her close and in a day where chivalry was nowhere near dead, and the only way he can touch her in the most gentlemanly way possible is to ask her to dance.
I love that Allie answers, “Sure.” Oh how I identify with this part of her character.
Noah leads her to an empty street and assumes the standard dance position, humming a few bars of the most romantic tune he knows. I admire Allie’s gumption as she informs him that he is a terrible singer. He humbly accepts her critique and pulls her closer. Then she compliments him because what is happening in that moment is special. Guys just don’t spontaneously dance with girls in the middle of the street as they gently sway to Billie Holiday crooning in the background. I would love to rest my head on the shoulder of a man who is obviously stepping out of his comfort zone because I’m worth it. He pulls away for a dip. She smiles, because every girl feels light as a feather when she’s dipped. He brings her close again, their lips almost touching and you can see that he’s done. There’s no going back. Allie is his life now. And he’ll stop at nothing to make her realize that he’s the only one for her.
Nicholas Sparks wrote the book from which those scenes were born. Countless male artists on my iTunes sing similar lyrics. Some Guy in Austin writes comparable romantic stanzas.
I believe that romance is not dead. Would I prefer the real stuff to the guy that dishes it out because he knows I’ll soak it right up? Of course.
But my true desire is to love and be loved with all my heart. Somewhere out there, a guy is going to find me captivating. And I can’t wait. I can’t wait for the romance that will surely follow.
A boombox held over his head. A ride on a lawn mower into the sunset. A bouquet of wild flowers picked just for me. A birthday cake on a glass dining room table. A “Sissy” license plate in the back of his truck. Risking his life to save me from the lightning sand. A glass slipper that just happens to be size 7½. A perfectly timed laugh. A touch of the small of my back. The gaze that says it all.
A simple dance in the street.
(originally posted in 2011)