The Notebook

Well, ok… here we go.  The Notebook.  Haha, if you’ve known me beyond a certain length of time, you’re most likely familiar with the great hatred I carried for this movie.  No, I didn’t dislike it.  I HATED it.  Why?  Well, I talked about that in the first entry of this series, so let’s get down to the review.  First, I’ll explain my original reasons for disliking the movie/song/whatever to the best of my memory, and I’ll follow that with the new review.  Oh, and unlike my other reviews… these will no doubt contain explicit spoilers.

Original impression:

• To start the movie, I was turned off by the character of the male lead in the young story.  It was something about the way he was impressing this girl who made me dislike him.  Youthful jealousy/frustration on my part?  Probably 😉

• Another big factor with me were love triangles.  Someone is always going to get screwed over and unless the movie pegs one of them as a villain… it never sat well with me at all.

• I didn’t find the female lead character very likable.  Mind blowing, considering how much I like the actress… but from what I remember, I disliked her back and forth mentality – it drove me nuts when I first saw it.

• Ultimately, my biggest reason for disliking this movie was that I didn’t see it as a LOVE story, but a story of LUST and infatuation.  I saw the young girl getting wrapped up in the amazing, fresh, fun adventure and thinking it was love, but all I saw was the same kind of love one may normally find walking the halls of a local high school.  I didn’t see the mature love story that everyone around me heralded it as.

So, those were my thoughts then, and these are my thoughts now…

Second Chance:

Well, I can start by saying that I still don’t like the movie, however most of my former complaints have withered with time – which is ultimately what I was hoping to achieve with this new series of entries.  First, my original dislike of the male lead character was misplaced.  He was simply acting how a 17-18 year old (not sure on his exact age, but I know hers) would act.  That was something I couldn’t grasp originally, though I’m sure a large part of that was due to the fact that I kept hearing about how romantic it all is.  This is where I’d like to take my current stance.

The opening of the movie is about a summer love between two crazy young kids.  They don’t yet understand the depths of love, and looking at the movie now I can see that their reactions (especially hers) are very much in line with a teenager’s.  Likewise, though I still don’t enjoy stories featuring love triangles in which an innocent party is hurt, it does happen, and realistically – that’s how love is.  If you don’t love someone, it’s not fair to either party to stay involved.  That’s what I can take from this movie, now.  It’s not necessarily a perfect fairy tale, but it is a realistic look at these people’s lives.  The girl cheats on her fiancee after finally meeting this summer love interest again, and while that was originally the nail in the coffin for me and my great hatred of the movie, I can now say that at least it felt true.  These two main characters are NOT lovable.  They have faults, as anyone will, but by seeing some of the things they do – I wouldn’t dare say I liked them for it.  That notion, however, is what I now realize is the key to this movie.

These two lead characters aren’t great.  The lead girl has a many-day affair with the lead guy weeks before her wedding to another man.  The lead guy earlier strings along a widow in a relationship, knowing full well that his intentions are to win back the lead girl.  They’re simply two imperfect people who happen to find each other, in spite of the mistakes they make along the way.  So, do we have the fairy tale story that young girls (and like-minded others) swoon over and believe it is?  I don’t think so.  Instead, what we have is a very realistic look at how a relationship came to be.  By romanticizing what is actually in the movie, I think folks have put ideas into this movie that don’t belong… but that’s what folks tend to do 😉  It’s very interesting, because if the movie had NOT shown us the couple in their old age, it would be very easy to dismiss what we see in their younger years as an immature infatuation.  Truthfully, they spend one summer together, and then do not see each other for 7 years… not much time to develop a meaningful relationship.  Relationships aren’t always exciting and full of adventure – and that’s where the strength of true love comes in… it’s about the long haul, not the sudden starry-eyed dream when you first meet someone.  Seeing what we see with the young couple in the movie, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if their relationship collapsed later on, but by seeing that they DID survive, though, let’s me understand that what we’re seeing in the movie is genuine – even if it’s originally immature, as any relationship formed at that point of life will be.  These two do love each other, even if they had to take a round-a-bout way to understand what that really meant.  That journey from infatuation to love, though, is what The Notebook is really about.

The key to all of this, for me, is near the end.  The girl has made her decision to leave her fiancee and follow her heart, as we see her pull up to her summer-time love’s house and pull suitcases out of her car.  He looks down at her, and with a fairly limp expression on her face, she shrugs.  This shrug made me understand what this movie is, for the first time.  It’s a comment on love.  We don’t choose it, we don’t control who we fall in love with – it just happens, and that is something we can’t deny.  Whether it’s chemical, spiritual, emotional – I’ve never known love myself, so I couldn’t tell you.  What I do know, however, is that despite what I originally thought… The Notebook IS a love story.  I may not find the characters or the story extremely appealing, but it IS a love story… eventually.  The girl looks to camera and shrugs, as if to say, “I don’t know.  It’s crazy how love works, and even though it’s crazy, we have to at least be honest: I love you and you love me, so I guess that’s that.”  We certainly see these young characters grow, though JUST as they are beginning to mature in their knowledge of themselves and love – we leave them.  Perhaps, though, this was the entire point.  This movie isn’t about the culmination of a great love (though that is exemplified very well with the story of the elderly couple), but it is about the journey of two young people discovering what love really is.

Final Conclusion:

I certainly don’t believe The Notebook is the quintessential love story that it is often called, for that I’d rely on something more like Rocky, but I do believe that it is a good representation of the beginning of love and the resulting maturation of these two characters that it takes for them to realize love’s true meaning.

Wow.  If I can come to almost like The Notebook, it seems this new series is going to work after all 😉

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About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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