The Hunt For The Worst Movie Of All Time: The Notebook
I’m probably not the original intended audience for The Notebook. I know that. But who is the intended audience for The Notebook? Is it jerks? It must be jerks. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with liking The Notebook, but there’s kind of something wrong with liking The Notebook, you know? I mean, this movie is actual garbage. It doesn’t pluck at your heartstrings so much as it barfs on your diarrhea-strings. It would be one thing if The Notebook was a made-for-Lifetime movie, which it basically is, I guess, but also it is not. It is a movie that was in movie theaters, and that was an actual cultural event at a certain point in our collective history. Whoops on us! In the future, when the planet is covered in water, and we are sitting on our hover-porches with our future grandkids, we are going to have to explain a few things: our selfish abuse of the environment, Ke$ha, and why anyone ever thought The Notebook was even remotely watchable, much less actually romantic. Three EQUALLY DIFFICULT subjects.
The Notebook (which is basically The Green Mile but slightly less realistic) is based on the Bathroom Novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. The story takes place in two time periods: 2004 (but an alternate 2004 in which no one has any idea how Alzheimer’s works) and flashbacks to the 1940s. In 2004, two old people (James Garner and Gena Rowlands) are living in a nursing home. James Garner is like “let me read you this story,” and Gena Rowlands is like “I’ve got Alzheimer’s, but OK, let’s spend all fucking day listening to this story that there is basically no way I am going to have the attention span or the memory retention to absorb.” The story that he reads her is a miserable love story, I mean really just one of the worst. It’s about this rich girl (Rachel McAdams) who starts dating this poor boy (Ryan Gosling) for no real reason other than apparently she is into guys who think a fun time is lying in the fucking road, and who act like they are going to date rape her if she just gives them a chance. Then they fall in love, again for no reason really. One time she pushes ice cream in his face? You know how love is. But then they break up after he just barely gets the tip in because her parents are SO mean and the boy is SO poor. While she goes off to college, he goes to war, and his best friend, a Hollywood manager named E, dies.
When Ryan Gosling comes back, his dad is like “I took a loan out from the bank and sold my house so that you could buy a piece of shit disaster of a house instead of going to college, it just seems like a really smart investment.” And somehow actually it is a smart investment, because the boy turns the shitty house into a nice house and now he builds chairs in the garage and he is rich? I guess I don’t know a lot about the 1940s economy.
Anyway, Rachel McAdams is engaged to get married to another rich boring person who is equally boring and rich. But right before the wedding she sees a picture of Ryan Gosling standing in front of his house looking very “Bartender at a Speakeasy in Greenpoint” (FUN FACT: in the 1940s, if you renovated a house, you made the front page of fucking NEWSPAPERS apparently). She decides to go down and see him, just to say hi. Good thinking! (Meanwhile, the two old people break for lunch, and also break for James Garner to mention how many heart attacks he has had in the past few months, I’m sure that won’t come up again later, though, so forget it.) Anyway, they FUCK. Like, hardcore up against the wall raw dogging it. You know how the 40s were. That is why they call them The Roaring Fuckies. Anyway, now Rachel McAdams doesn’t know WHAT to do. Should she go back to her boring fiance who is so boring, or should she stay and marry Ryan Gosling, who is so…well, he’s not that poor anymore, so I don’t even know what the problem is. He’s got a fucking mansion and all he does is hang out with ducks all day. But she is torn! Then her mother is like “one time I was in love with a poor person, and I have regretted marrying a rich person ever since.” HAHA. Good grief.
Meanwhile, back in 2004, this movie continues to pretend like there is some kind of suspense over who the old people are? (I suppose that was a clever use of casting, because it IS true that James Garner and Gena Rowlands look NOTHING like Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.) IT’S RACHEL MCADAMS AND RYAN GOSLING! BUT OLD AND SICK! So anyway, apparently every time that James Garner gets to the end of this story, Gena Rowlands remembers that she is Rachel McAdams or whatever, and they dance for five minutes before she goes back to being a total Space Case (clinical term for someone suffering from dementia). Oh boy.
And then James Garner has a heart attack. And then they both die.
So many things to get mad about! Where to even begin!
First of all: I would like to point out that I am as open to emotional manipulation as the next person who is VERY VERY OPEN to emotional manipulation, and I full expected to cry during this movie whether I actually liked it or not, because I had heard about people (read: women) crying a lot during this movie, and it is a love story, and who doesn’t love love stories? So it is a testament to just how bad this movie is that I did not cry at all. The opposite. (Tears went inside my body? Also: yuck, sorry.)
One of the main reasons that I did not cry during this movie is because WHAT IS THERE TO CRY ABOUT? Rachel McAdams’s and Ryan Gosling’s love story is the most two-dimensional parody of a third-grader’s concept of “love” that I have ever seen. The only thing they ever talk about is how much they love each other. What a boring relationship! Even at the end, after lives fully lived, as they dodder around the old folks’ home, here they are still, reading this goddamned book about how one time they fell in love. SUBSCRIBE TO SOME MAGAZINES OR SOMETHING! GET SOMETHING ELSE TO TALK ABOUT!
Like, what the FUCK is THIS:
How romantic? Lunatics!
And what is Ryan Gosling’s problem? I mean, I know what it is like to have your heart broken, I am a human being with genuine emotions. But eventually you need to pick yourself up off the fucking floor. I’m sure Rachel McAdams was like “it is so attractive how you seem to have had some kind of nervous breakdown following an adolescent summer relationship and spent the rest of your life working towards some kind of developmentally stunted fantasy world.” Yuck.
But while the love story may have been nothing but cliches and banalities (we know that Rachel McAdams is interesting because she “paints”), the scenes in the senior home were just outright BONKERS. I’m not saying that I am a professor of Alzheimer’s Science, but based on my personal experiences with a close relative who suffered from dementia, you go in and out of clarity and awareness at seeming random, NOT BASED ON WHERE YOU ARE IN THE STORY YOUR HUSBAND IS READING YOU. Speaking of that story: I love that it deals with every minor detail (“and then he was in the garage, making a chair, and she came in and looked up, and he looked down, and he came down the ladder, taking a break from his work on the chair, but he would get back to his work on the chair later”) of their courtship and then ends abruptly and never deals with anything that happened in the 60+ years that followed, including their actual LIVES TOGETHER, or the BIRTH OF THEIR CHILDREN, or the BIRTH OF THEIR GRANDCHILDREN.
You know how families are: always lying to mentally unstable moms because that is better for dramatic effect. What the fuck is wrong with this family? She is the one who doesn’t always remember who you are, not the other way around, SO PICK UP THE SLACK, SHITHEADS. I just want to mow this family down. With bullets.
Throughout the movie, James Garner keeps insisting that the doctors are wrong, and that it isn’t futile for him to keep reading this notebook to Gena Rowlands, because he believes in miracles. And at first I was a little worried that the ending of this movie was going to feature Gena Rowlands’ magical recovery from her degenerative illness because of this stupid notebook. But that is not what happens. What happens is even more amazing. James Garner crawls into bed with her, and she asks if their love can create miracles (because of all of a sudden she remembers who she is no problem), he says yes, and she asks if they can go to heaven together, and he says sure. AND THEN THEY DIE.
That IS a miracle. Thank you, God. I hope they are in hell.
Next week: City of Angels. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.