Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “The Notebook.”
The Movie: “The Notebook”
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A poor yet passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman, giving her a sense of freedom, but they are soon separated because of their social differences.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 53 percent
Brown: I think we’re on a romance kick on the JOE-DOWN.
Last week, we watched the love affair between a man and a mall last week with Kevin Smith’s “Mallrats.”
And this week, we go with one of the quintessential love stories of the 2000s in “The Notebook.”
I told my mom we were reviewing this movie. Her reaction: “Don’t make fun of it. I cried watching that movie!”
Seemingly over the years, a lot of people have. And who doesn’t enjoy a movie about summer love like “Grease” with less rapey undertones.
I had never seen this movie before this week, mostly because I haven’t been in a relationship long enough for a woman to grab their dusty DVD off the shelf. But if there was one relationship to break this out for, it was with Froemming. Love you, boo.
Did us Joes cry? We’ll find out.
While I row our boat out to a flooded forest full of disgusting geese, give me your initial thoughts, Froemming.
Froemming: I have never seen this before. The people I gravitate toward in relationships would, like myself, rather punch themselves in the (REDACTED) than sit through a two-hour romance film starring the male answer to Kristen Stewart in Ryan Gosling. EMOTE, BOTH OF YOU!
So when you picked this, my first reaction was “Well (REDACTED), another (REDACTED) movie that will drive me (REDACTED) nuts with its (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) nonsense.”
Little did I know you picked the second greatest love story after Mickey and Mallory Knox in “Natural Born Killers.” My thoughts on the movie went from homicidal rage at first to blooming into a love of a film that, despite all the stupid (REDACTED) nonsense in it, opened my eyes to true love: Badgering a woman until she says those magical two words: “I guess.”
Brown, as I rebuild a plantation to prove my love for a stranger, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: OK, maybe the most baffling part of the movie comes in the opening scene when the credits roll with CGI seagulls that look as bad as anything from “Birdemic.” Like, this movie had a $29 million budget and no real big-budget items. You got all this geese midway through the movie, did you not have any money left to get some gulls? You couldn’t give a gofer on set a loaf of bread and a net to get some birds nearby?
Anywho, we start at a nursing home where this doofy dude looking like a mafia extra in a Scorcese movie getting ready to read a book.
And look, I’m sure this was a twist for absolute morons but the moment the woman who’s getting read to asks who the guy is, I was like “OK, that is Rachel McAdams’ character and she has Alzheimer.” Turns out, it’s dementia, so close enough for me.
Froemming: Well, halfway through it felt like the filmmaker was like “yeah, we’re not fooling anyone” and they spill the beans shortly after we see these two reemerge.
Brown: How much better would it have been if it turned out the old man was Lon, the man Rachel McAdams’ character was supposed to marry? The McAdams/Ryan Gosling relationship is like a fairy tale but realistically, she stuck with the guy who wasn’t harboring serial killer tendencies.
Froemming: Who the (REDACTED) is Lon? You mean Crisstopher Rick Chros, Liz Lemon’s future love?
But you are wrong about the old man. He would never work for the mob. Why, he is private detective James Rockford, and he had the best 70s TV show music of all time.
So Rockford begins reading to this woman in the nursing home, out of his notebook. It is a tale of two young people who find love one summer, and then have a miserable bunch of years that follow because they are hung up on some flame from the past.
But let’s start off with the night they meet, when Allie (McAdams) is on a date with some guy at a carnival and Noah (Gosling) is a guy who doesn’t take “no” for an answer. He becomes creepily fixated on this poor girl, like Ted Bundy at Lake Sammamish in the 1970s where he kidnapped and murdered a few women in open daylight.
So fixated, mind you, that he climbs a Ferris Wheel to interrupt her date, only to ask her out and then threaten suicide if she says “no.” But it is OK, because she says “yes” under duress and pulls his pants down.
True love. It’s an amazing thing.
Brown: Froemming, do I remain unmarried because I’ve never said to a woman “If you don’t go out with me I’ll kill myself?”
Froemming: If you’ve never uttered those words to a woman, Brown, you have been doing it wrong all these years.
Brown: I don’t get love.
But I absolutely get why Allie wants nothing to do with Noah. Dude dresses like a Newsie. He’s abrasive. He THREATENS suicide via Ferris Wheel. Noah, my man, desperation is a stinky cologne.
Froemming: Well, not when you look like Ryan Gosling.
Brown: Honestly, I get Ryan Gosling and Ryan Phillipe mixed up in my head. I thought going in “I kind of liked Gosling in ‘MacGruber.’” I think I may suffer from face blindness.
Allie says yes to Noah because of course she doesn’t want a man to die. So the next day, Noah sees her out in the street and she says no to a date because OF COURSE SHE SHOULD SAY NO. Dude was willing to kill himself on a whim.
… But they go out eventually when Allie gets tricked into a double date. Damn you, movie.
Froemming: I have only been on a double date once, and I was way too ….
*reading from a notepad* Stone cold sober to have an issue with it.
They go to the talkies for a night of rambunctious watching a black and white screen with racist overtones from a bygone era. Then, Noah offers Allie to lay in the street with him, because this was before television, smart phones and whatnot, so this was the only form of entertainment one could have at the time that didn’t involve getting pregnant or having a hangover. Or both, as often it could be two things.
Brown: Also, people also had fun by laying in the middle of the road? Because that’s what Noah does to make some point that Allie doesn’t have a free life? See, she’s a *browses cliche MadLibs* she’s a rich girl who’s set to go to a women’s lib college and he’s a down-at-home country boy who works at the lumber yard.
Froemming: It’s is the timeless premise to the music video, “Uptown Girl.”
Brown: But they fall madly in love with each other. To the point where mom and dad (who looks too much like Calvin Candie from “Django Unchained” for comfort) do not approve. But, Noah has a dream: to renovate a plantation house and, I assume, refer to the help as Boy because this is the South in the 1940s and there’s no way these characters aren’t racist.
Froemming: The dad looked exactly like Joseph Stalin to me.
So Noah takes Allie to this rundown plantation and woohs her into almost having sex with him. She is nervous, she almost seems like she is having a panic attack which makes sense since this is her first time, and boy did she knock it out of the park by having that be with Ryan Gosling’s abs. But they are interrupted by one of the schmucks from “Entourage,” because the cops have been called and they are looking for Allie.
Before this all goes down, Noah promises he will rebuild this old plantation so the South could rise again, and it would take time, but 2016 eventually came along and the Era of the Idiot is now in full force.
They return to Allie’s parents’ place, where we find out her mom is not fond of her daughter dating a poor (it is not class warfare when it is problematic for the rich, I saw that on FOX News) and wants her to end it. Noah, even with his economic handicap, has functional ears and hears the whole thing and decides “This is a whole thing” and leaves.
They break up. He feels he cannot exist in her upper-class life and takes off. She, quite rightly, is upset over this dumbass #hottake, but alas, the love is over.
Brown: Do you blame the parents?! Their daughter nearly got deflowered at a Scooby-Doo haunted house!
Froemming: Hey man, it was way worse when I lost my….
*reading from a notepad* My gloves at the park one time.
Brown: Later at the lumber mill, I’m assuming Noah sung about his summer fling with Allie.
But no, our leads have to be lovesick puppies. While Allie is whisked away to college, Noah writers her every day for a year like another southern idiot we know.
Allie never responds since her mom hides the letters from Noah.
The mother: played by Joan Allen. Also should mention that the movie is directed by Nick Cassavetes. Allen and Cassavetes have worked together before in JOE-DOWN favorite “Face/Off.”
What I wouldn’t give for this movie to be the prequel to “Face/Off” and for Allie and Noah to have given birth to the Troy brothers.
Froemming: Allie goes to college and Noah signs up for the military and goes off to war in Europe, to fight the nazis. I think our president has said there were fine people on both sides of that conflict.
Allie does her part for the war effort and becomes a nurse who meets Chris, a man who one day will own a van and sell food out of it in Manhattan. Noah sees his best friend get shot to death in the theater of war, and suffers from PTSD that he covers up as “long lost love” for that special woman who got away. Which includes him buying the plantation and rebuilding it, growing a beard, becoming an alcoholic, bedding a war widow with the selfish intentions of not being alone with his crippling depression, refusing to sell his plantation in hopes his true love comes back.
Wow, Allie moved on like a normal person and this obviously ill man needs more help than building a home can offer.
Brown: Martha (Noah’s post-war sidepiece) just wants to give Noah …
I’m thinking she tries to kill him “Fatal Attraction” style. Hope Noah doesn’t own any bunnies.
Elsewhere, Lon proposes to Allie so yeah, she’s got a nice fiance, security and is nowhere near a guy who THREATENED TO KILL HIMSELF if she didn’t date him.
Only, while she’s trying on her wedding dress, Allie finds out in the paper that Noah finally rebuilt the plantation. At least someone’s reading the newspaper.
Then we see Allie looking at the photo while wearing her veil in the tub. I get it, girl. Masturbation is healthy.
What’s unhealthy is leaving your fiance for amounts to a sex romp with your psychopath first love when it’s been seven years and you’re engaged!
Froemming: Let’s travel back to the retirement home…
Retirement community, I apologize.
So Rockford is reading this book and like I mentioned earlier, the beans are spilled when their children show up and they want Noah to come home, since it is a lost cause with Allie now. He refuses, this is his love. He rebuilt a damn plantation for her once, without any knowledge such an endeavor would pay off. So yeah, he is reading their love story to her.
Brown: To be fair, that’s pretty (REDACTED) sweet. Pointless, but sweet. Pretty positive Noah got the idea from Adam Sandler in “50 First Dates,” but sweet nonetheless.
Back to our story where after catching up, Noah convinces Allie to come back so he can take her on a boat surrounded by geese like that’s romantic or something. Yeah, it’s some symbolism about the geese coming back but I kept thinking I wanted a “The Birds” moment where a flock flies away with an empty, bloody boat.
Instead, it rains, they have a famous moment in the rain where they find out they never gave up on each other.
Naturally, they bang. Here’s a reenactment of the next few days of their lives.
I will say when Allie’s like “We waited this long for THAT? Let’s go again,” I laughed. Then I was a little envious because Rachel McAdams is cute and like Ron Swanson, I like dark-haired women and breakfast foods.
Froemming: This movie plays like a paint-by-numbers romance movie, but damnit it does it well. I hate myself for falling for moments like these.
So we got these two lovebirds doing cutesy nonsense that tells us how infatuated they are with one another and how we normal people will never have that.
But then her mother shows up in what is the biggest WTF life lesson I have seen on film in a long time.
She takes Allie for a drive and parks at some construction site, where she points out some dude. She, too, found love one summer and her parents ruined it for her.
WHAT? That is your reasoning for destroying your daughter’s true love? Because it happened to you? This is why everyone hates the boomers. If they didn’t have college debt relievement, why the hell should anyone else?! If they couldn’t have their true love, their children damn well won’t either!
Brown: Greatest generation, my ass!
Froemming: Then the mother starts balling about how she loves her husband, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Despite the fact she clearly isn’t really into him.
Those crocodile tears are convincing nobody, lady.
What was the point of this moment? For a movie that was pretty solid, this part just baffled the hell out of me.
Brown: It shows how psychotic Joan Allen is where 25 years after having a summer fling, she STILL visits the guy while he’s working.
I don’t get it. My high-school sweetheart, after we broke up the summer after high school, I didn’t see her until the 10-year reunion. Last relationship I was in, I’ve had to see her twice. Once was super awkward and the second time I just didn’t give a (REDACTED) anymore. What the hell is the point, Joan Allen? It’s not stopping your daughter from (REDACTED) Noah with her wedding ring on.
Also, how (REDACTED) uncool is that? Put the ring on the nightstand or something, Allie.
Allie and Noah fight and Allie heads to the hotel to deal with Lon. As she’s leaving, Noah is just eyeballing the tree behind her like he’s going to hang himself. But, Allie now has the letters, which her mom put in the trunk of the car with a bow wrapped around them.
… You don’t want her to marry Noah. Why didn’t you just throw them away?!
Froemming: Maybe this is foreshadowing the dementia in the family? I dunno.
So she goes back to Chris, and says she loves him but is going back to Noah, because life is full of difficult decisions. Chris moves to New York and finds his true love in the creator of “The Girly Show with Tracy Jordan.” So, not all bad for him.
And Allie comes back to Noah. True love has won. But it still has its obstacles, because in the present, Allie is suffering from dementia and only has glimpses of her old memories. As someone who lost two grandparents to this, it is truly a heartbreaking experience, so seeing old Noah still fighting for her hit me in the feels like a chump.
Brown: Yeah, it’s like watching Sisypus push the boulder up the mountain only for him to have to do it day after day after day.
To make matters worse, present-day Noah may as well be one of Bill Swerski’s Super Fans because he has a heart attack, his third cardiac episode in recent time.
So with both their time running out, Noah and Allie spend the night together in the nursing home and die in each other’s arms. It would bum me out more if it wasn’t so cliche.
And with that, we come to the end of “The Notebook.” Let’s go to recommendations before you leave me for your first love.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: I get the appeal, but no. I’m good.
Froemming: Cliches and idiotic moments aside, I enjoyed it. I say check it out.