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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo ©2004 Mellissa Moseley, SMPSP/New Line Productions)

photo caption:
THOSE WERE THE DAYS MY FRIEND: Duke (James Garner, left) recounts the tale of two young lovers, one of whom is Allie (Gena Rowlands), in an attempt to retard her descent into dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease.
end caption.


Senile Wife's Memories Stirred by "The Notebook"

Review by Kam Williams

Nicholas Sparks is a best-selling author of romance novels which lend themselves to adaptation into melodramatic movies. His bittersweet Message in a Bottle (1999), a movie with a whopper of a twist, featured Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn in an ill-fated love affair. The maudlin A Walk to Remember (2002), about a woman with a devastating secret, starred Mandy Moore opposite Shane West.

The Notebook, Sparks' latest work, is a sentimental film with flashbacks and clichés. Directed by Nick Cassavetes (John Q), the film is faithful to the formula perfected by Nicholas Sparks.

Cassavetes has a talented cast, including Oscar-nominees James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Sam Shepard, and Joan Allen. The rest of the principal cast is comprised of up-and-coming actors Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, and James Marsden.

Set in North Carolina, the story is narrated by an ailing octogenarian (Garner) who reads from a dog-eared journal to fellow nursing home resident, an Alzheimer's victim named Allie Nelson (Rowlands). It doesn't take long to figure out that the 1930s love triangle he is so wistfully reminiscing about involves the two of them.

The suspense revolves around which of the suitors he is and whether Allie chose him in the end. Did the attractive debutante decide on the well-connected "boy-most-likely" (Marsden) approved of by her parents, or did she follow her heart and go for Noah Calhoun (Gosling), the working class kid from the other side of the tracks.

The present-day scenes of the devoted patient doting on Allie at the retirement center are the movie's most moving. He exhibits a desperate persistence in his tender attempts to stir the fast-fading memories of a life-long lover now sadly too senile even to remember who her husband is.

That touching tableau stands in sharp contrast to the unabashed, impulsive abandon they displayed while still in the bloom of youth. The frequent flashbacks find their alter-egos in a variety of nostalgic, Norman Rockwellian settings, such as frolicking at the fair, strolling down Main Street, sharing their first passionate embrace, and meeting the parents.

Take a box of tissues for the conclusion. In fact, the crying became so audible at the screening I attended, that the females in the audience actually broke into laughter during the closing credits. Bewildered, I had to ask my wife to explain the apparently inappropriate response. She explained, through her own tears, that it was due to the mutual recognition that all the other women were weeping, too.

Good (2 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief nudity and some sexuality.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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