OBJECTIVE: Watch a popular or critically acclaimed film we’ve never seen to the halfway point. Pause it. Work together to predict the ending.
THE NOTEBOOK (2004)
THE LAST THING WE SAW: We paused at 01:02:00, in the middle of Rachel McAdams getting dressed up for her wedding to James Marsden. Some lady was just about to hand Rachel a copy of the Daily Journal.
And now… discuss!
Phil: So first off, I predict that the two elderly folks are the two characters we’ve been watching, Noah and Rachel McAdams (what was her character’s name again?). The book from which he’s reading is his notebook. Whoa!
Ben: Her name was Eve. Or Malaysia, or Sonnet or… something dumb. But yeah, I bet Noah is the one with the book, and Sonnevelaysia has Alzheimer’s and it’s a more forceful version of 50 First Dates. I bet the notebook is (at least partially) a collection of the letters he wrote, kept by but stolen from Sonnevelaysia’s mother.
Phil: Oh, that could be. I was thinking more that this notebook was completely his recollections of the matter, like a diary; I feel that Rachel’s mom most likely burned his letters (perhaps the fact that he wrote one near a foreshadowing fireplace has something to do with this).
Ben: Ooh, good catch. Since it plays more like a narrative than one person’s missives, that makes more sense. If Noah and Malaysia McAdams simply MUST end up together (as the film so vehemently insists), I bet it will involve James Marsden dropping the ball romantically. I mean, jeez, have you seen X-Men or Superman Returns? He always plays someone who starts out with the best woman on Earth and fumbles it.
Phil: Oh, I totally disagree. The movie has been setting up that her family are typical movie-trope rich-os: snooty, snobby, unreasonable, and spiteful Mr. Potters whose ends, they feel, justify their means; and this insipid guy she’s now with I think is no different. I predict that the three of them will come up with some pretty manipulative and deceptive plots to ensure that Ryan is no longer in the picture.
Ben: Exactly. I didn’t say he’d do it alone. Nobody’s an asshole in a vacuum. I’d bet it’s a combination of their pressures/judgments and his arrogance/slip-ups. Plus, since we’re so mired in cliché, there’ll likely be a Say Anything-esque scene. Maybe he’ll hold up a gramophone of Cab Calloway on her mansion’s front yard.
Phil: Yeah, but I don’t think that Marsden is going to drop the proverbial ball. The story has gone way over the top to show that these rich people are bastards (the sort that ask a guest how much money he makes). I think that, at the very least, the parents will somehow ensure that Ryan is never allowed to see Rachel again. Oh, hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if the only reason that Old Ryan Gosling is now able to read to her in this Princess Bride Peter Falk-y sort of way is that she, with her amnesia or whatever, has no idea who he is?
Ben: Since she had to be introduced to (or reminded about) him at the beginning, that’s the only way that would make sense. The parents don’t seem like dynamic characters, so your appraisal of them, while a tad unkind, is probably accurate. But while they may not change, I think there’d be a narrative disservice in Cyclops/Lois Plane losing Malaysia McAdams without making a bold error.
Do you think we’ll see any more overwrought imagery? I bet we’ll see a little more transitional wistfulness; i.e. she paints Noah in front of the pre-restored dream house or something.
Phil: Oh, that is good. Not only is she going to paint him, but the painting will probably be the reveal that alerts us as to who they once were. And overwrought is the word. There were scenes that were supposed to be cute but were just plain baffling to me. Examples include his pushiness for a date bordering on harassment where he almost kills himself off a Ferris wheel, and when they lie in the middle of the road together. These didn’t feel cute to me: they felt dangerous, ridiculous, and overblown. So I venture that he’ll try to prove himself to her one last time by something equally irresponsible and dangerous, like fighting a duel.
Ben: That sounds dead on, emphasis on dead. They already literally play in traffic and threaten suicide, so there’s nowhere to go but down– six feet, to be precise. Speaking of harassment, do you think the emotional and physical abuse will continue? This couple is very… expressive. Which I guess is my nice way of saying that all of their interactions sound like the background of a 911 call for a domestic dispute.
Phil: Heh, well, I noticed that most of the scenes really did sound like they were abusive, but I genuinely think that the filmmakers and Nicholas Sparks were intending them to come off as cutesy. So I don’t actually think he is abusive, but I do wonder to some degree where her attraction for Gosling came from, as it did seem to come pretty out of the blue after not talking to him during a movie. So my guess is that she is going to continue being pretty blown about by emotions and whims and baffling motivation. I also think that Messrs. Gosling and Marsden are destined to finally have an interaction. Do you agree, and if so, how do you think that’ll go down?
Ben: Why would the senseless emotional roller coaster stop now? For excitement’s sake, I hope these two do clash, but with a sense of honor as relates to their shared military background. Maybe Marsden makes an arrogant play, while Gosling fights dirty but by-the-book? Do you think their reunion will be as forced (or forceful) as their meeting and courtship?
Phil: I think the Marsden-Gosling altercation will start out civilly enough, but it will eventually descend into Marsden’s throwing around some class trash. This will make Gosling mad enough that he throws a punch, to which Marsden will merely look up from the ground, wounded to the soul. This masterful play will ensure that Gosling now looks like a hot-headed fool, and no one, including Rachel McWishWash, will want anything to do with him. Furthermore, I think Gosling will slink off for the time being. Despite his saying “When I know what I want, I fight to get it,” he clearly didn’t do this when it came to talking to Rachel’s parents the night they stayed out until 2 am. So he’ll be out of the picture. When the Gosling and McAdams do finally reunite, either now or later, it will be through a stroke of luck that makes Marsden’s and the parents’ machinations known.
Ben: Gosling is certainly in a tough spot. Does he behave himself, obediently stay away from McAdams, and lose the girl? Or does he go against their wishes, interrupt an engagement, and earn the family’s scorn (again)? Since his impetuousness outweighs his decorum, and since I assume that’s part of what attracted McAdams to him in the first place, it would be too easy for Gosling to merely be arms to run into when someone else screws up. Beyond what we’ve already covered, I foresee the following:
* The most rapey (and least natural) dialogue will crescendo into an impossibly saccharine speech of love-declaration and horseshit
* An emotional reveal about the nature of the mental illness (not Nicholas Sparks, the McAdams character) will capture his fondness for her
* Groping fades to seagulls, kayaks, and sepia tones set to plodding piano plunking
This movie could have captured the spirit of Whitman’s poetry, exploring the duality of man and his infinite capacity. Instead it is used as a backdrop, where the only leaves of grass worth mentioning are the ones people roll around in when they argue about whether or not they should screw. No, wait, that was the dilapidated house, which wound up symbolizing that what should be a gorgeous thing can fall into complete disrepair, and feel wrong even when someone spends forever trying to fix it. Let’s see if that changes for the better.
AND NOW, WE FINISH THE MOVIE: