Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Great Expectations: Disappointment in The Notebook

[So after writing this, I realize that the majority of it seems to really bash on The Notebook. But it gets better at the end. So if you're gonna read this you have to promise me to read all the way to the bottom. Promise? Pinky promise? Okay, go ahead..]

The Notebook came out in 2004 and I watched it for the first time last Saturday. I think when it first came out and I was an impressionable 13 year old, my mom wouldn't let me watch it, most likely because of a sex scene. But here I am, 10 years later and I still feel terribly awkward during sex scenes in movies (as I'll explain further, below).

These past ten years I have heard from basically everyone in the world about how it's the most romantic best movie EVER! And " haven't seen it?! You have to see it RIGHT NOW!" Even from my husband...that's when you know you've gotta watch it.

To say that my expectations were high would be putting it lightly. But I was also wary, because I have seen other Nicholas Spark's books turned into movies and they always left me crying. And I kinda hate crying. Thankfully (and surprisingly) The Notebook differed on that account. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's start from the opening credits.

**Warning! This post contains spoilers! If you are one of the few (like I was) who hasn't seen The Notebook yet, you may not want to read any further. Or let my opinions taint the movie for you...**

When we first meet the young Noah and Allie, they are at a carnival/county fair, not together. A promising start and opportunity for a meet-cute. Only, it wasn't was a little creepy.

Allie politely declines Noah's offer to dance (anyone hear music?) because hello, she has a gaggle of guys following her around so no judging from me, and then stalker Noah, complete with a crazy stare, jumps onto the moving ferris wheel to get her attention!

I'm sorry but I have been to county fairs similar to that one and if some guy, no matter his cuteness level, pulled that kind of stunt with me, I would run screaming in the other direction (once safely on the ground). Then, as if that weren't enough, he dangles himself from the top of said ferris wheel, threatening suicide or extreme bodily harm if she doesn't go out with him. Why would some guy, on first seeing a girl, not even really meeting her, pull such an elaborate stunt? Ryan Gosling or not, I'd decline the offer.
The next day Noah spots Allie walking down the street and once again pulls a creepy stalker move, asking when their threatened date will take place. He claims he has been drawn to her and needs to be with her. He even goes so far as to promise to change and be whatever she wants him to be. I got a serious case of stranger danger just watching it.

Keep in mind that I've never read the book so I'm not sure if and how the story differs there.

So they end up on that date and a couple romantic and daredevil moves (lying and dancing in the middle of the road) win Allie over. I don't blame her. By this point he's pretty cute and I'd probably dance with Ryan Gosling in the middle of the road too.

Let's skip ahead to the iconic beach/bird scene. Since I've seen the internet once or twice, I have seen my share of memes and gifs and quote-on-pictures from this scene. This is where those high expectations were in full swing. I was expecting cute and romantic. But the only word that came to my mind was weird.
"Say I'm a bird, Say I'm a bird, SAY I'M A BIRD."
No, you weirdo. Are you having some sort of fit? You are not a bird.
"Now say you're a bird."
If you aren't a bird, I am certainly not a bird.

I was more expecting this romantic scene: maybe still starting with Allie's musings on being a bird in a previous life and Noah responding, immediately, If you're a bird, I'm a bird.

But she had to like force the words out of him and the look on his face said, "How did I get myself into this relationship?"

I guess stalker + bird lady = Love... Or something.

I hope you haven't thrown your computer down in anger, just keep reading (you promised!), I think the movie does redeem itself, just not yet.

So now we're at that first awkward (almost? It really wasn't clear) sex scene. As I mentioned before I'm a bit of a sheltered 13 year old when it comes to sex scenes in movies and I get more awkward depending on who I'm watching it with, like in this case, with my grandmother.

I don't need to describe the scene, you've seen it. But I could hardly watch it. After finishing the movie and looking back, I realize that the point was to make it awkward but at the time it was agonizing to watch.

So we move on and I, like many other viewers I'm sure, hated Allie's mom for hiding the letters and was reminded of my own first love in high school. But when Lon starts wooing Allie, I totally start rooting for him. He is wonderful and attractive and rich and they love each other. And even though Noah is working on the house to somehow win Allie back, I see how happy she is and I kinda just want Noah to move on. I mean they were 17 for goodness sake. I too was in love at 17, but I got over it. And now I'm married and I'm so happy and so in love and I truly think our love can make miracles (See Evelyn), but more on that later.

So when Allie cheats on her seemingly perfect fiance with her high school summer love, I am appalled. She clearly loves them both, and I understand that you will always have a place in your heart for your first love, but that infidelity is just unacceptable.

So there's this raw, emotional, animalistic pull between Allie and Noah, and I get that (Oh boy do I get that) but I'm sad for Lon. I mean, he forgives her! Bah! And Noah's all over here like, well I'm a hot stud with a beard and so I'm gonna win.

Don't get me wrong, the love and connection between them was beautiful and powerful and really resonated with me. But the way it came about just made me ache a little bit.

Now for the redeeming factor.

I think if the movie had been solely the Rachel McAdams-Ryan Gosling affair, I wouldn't have been able to handle it. But seeing Noah read to Allie as an elderly couple and seeing the strength of their love even after all those years, that made it worth it for me. That let me feel good about saying, "Okay, they made the right choice."

And despite what another tweeter said, I maintain that this is the most romantic line in the movie and the second most romantic scene.

Not lying in the road, not the bird scene, THIS is what pulled at my heartstrings. This and seeing Noah cry when they have to sedate Allie. That is true love. Not that ripping each other's clothes off, animalistic passion--although that's great in it's own way--it's not the kind of love that sticks with you. (Well that and Noah reading Whitman to Allie. Cause there's nothing quite as sexy as a guy reading to you.)

And the way they died, hand in hand, was the perfect ending. I didn't cry, because I wasn't sad. It was beautiful. It's how I hope my life ends, minus the dementia if at all possible.

I hope you've made it this far because all I have left to say are good things. Despite my many many criticisms, I really loved the movie. In fact, I have been thinking about it and replaying it in my head for days.

That's my measure for a movie's quality: how well it sticks with me when I'm done watching it. And this one even inspired me to take action and write a Notebook of my own. Because who knows what will happen to mine or Chris's memory years down the road. But I know if I write it now, we'll always have that love story to look back on, to reminisce when our kids are grown and it's just the two of us again, hand in hand knowing that our love will take us away together. Because our love can do anything.


  1. The problem I have with a story like that is how much it perpetuates romantic myths. I mean, the wildly inappropriate guy you fall for at 17 may be your devoted life-long love, but he far more likely to be the guy who gets you pregnant and then abandons you with no child support. The sweetheart who cares for you when you are an old lady is much more likely to be the nice guy that your family likes. Women who believe wild flaming passion will someone turn any guy into a true blue awesome guy are heading for a world of hurt.

    1. You're completely right! I overlooked that. It's probably why I like Lon so much.

  2. "No, you're a weirdo. Are you having some sort of fit? You are not a bird." I seriously laughed out loud at that. Love this, and love you! I really liked Lon as well- but also I get all too well that sometimes everything is there on paper...and yet you like someone else more. Kudos on this post. It rocks and is wonderfully funny :)