James Garner and Gena Rowlands portray the older couple we meet in the beginning for whom the story he reads to her from his notebook--shown in flashbacks to the forties--has some special meaning.
Noah (Ryan Gosling) is a cheeky teenager who courts the stunning Allie (Rachel McAdams) in a way that would be considered stalking by today's standards, but in pre-war America was thought of as the admirable trait of PERSERVERANCE. It's the oft-told poor boy-rich girl tale, and Allie's mom--the classic Mrs. Richbitch that we love to hate--does mean things to try to keep them apart.
The young lovers are separated, and when the war breaks out Allie falls for a wounded enlisted man she meets at the hospital where she's volunteering. He's good looking and, oh yeah, RICH-which makes Allie's material-mom jump for joy. But even as she accepts her new guy's proposal of marriage, Allie thinks fondly of Noah and wonders if she's doing the right thing. Will she take the money and run, or will first love conquer all? We don't find out until right near the end, and that keeps things interesting throughout.
An authentic sense of place--or in this case, era--scores points with me, and The Notebook captures the forties to a T, both visually and musically. From the novel by Nicholas Sparks, the movie contains a surprisingly passionate love scene for a PG-13 rated film (another plus).
However, there are several minutes of surperfluous and anti-climactic stuff at the end, which detracts from what could have been a perfectly poignant ending. Better to leave 'em at the most touching moment and let the audience infer the rest.
GRADE: B +