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As teenagers, Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) begin a whirlwind courtship that soon blossoms into tender intimacy. The young couple is quickly separated by Allies upper-class parents who insist that Noah isnt right for her. Several years pass, and when they meet again, their passion is rekindled, forcing Allie to choose between her soulmate and class order. This beautiful tale has a particularly special meaning to an older gentleman (James Garner) who regularly reads the timeless love story to his aging companion (Gena Rowlands).
This single disc was included in the The Notebook Limited Edition Gift Set which was reviewed here.
For more about The Notebook and the The Notebook Blu-ray release, see the The Notebook Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden
Director: Nick Cassavetes
» See full cast & crew
The Notebook Blu-ray Review
Can a Blu-ray release sweep her off her feet?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 12, 2009
I would love to meet the guy who first uttered the words "chick flick." Did it earn him accolades from his male cohorts, a scowl from any woman in the vicinity, or a swift punch in the arm from his disgusted wife? Startlingly demeaning yet inarguably fitting at the same time, it's a genre label that continues to serve as a warning to disinterested boyfriends, a lure to young girls longing for that one true soulmate, and a comfortable old blanket for women who enjoy a rousing romance or emotional tearjerker. Still, despite numerous gender-based stigmas associated with the phrase and despite my own attempts to appear impervious to the genre, I have to admit I'm an absolute sucker for a good chick flick. Yep, whether it's Moulin Rouge, Love Actually, or Marley & Me… I'm that guy in the back of the theater desperately fighting to hold back a deluge of man-tears before his wife realizes what's going on.
Loaded with sentiment, packed to the brim with lip-quivering gut punches, and oozing with romantic idealism, The Notebook tells the painful tale of Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), a pair of star-crossed lovers torn apart by class in the summer of 1940 and reunited by fate years later. After a Seabrook Island summer romance brings the young dreamers together, Allie's domineering parents (David Thornton and Joan Allen) force them apart by abruptly sending her to New York before she has a chance to say goodbye. Longing to keep their relationship alive, Noah writes her a letter every day for a year, but is confused and heartbroken when she never replies. As the years drift by, Noah follows his best friend (Entourage's Kevin Connolly) into the Army, fights under Patton's command in World War II, and returns home to his father (Sam Shepard), determined to remodel an old plantation house he promised to Allie.
In New York, Allie quickly sinks into life at Sarah Lawrence College, spends her free time working as a nurse, and meets a wounded soldier named Lon Hammond (James Marsden). She's surprised at how quickly she warms to his charms, but falls for him anyway despite the fact that Noah's face is always lingering in the back of her mind. However, her mother has been intercepting his letters and Allie thinks he decided to move on with his life. Before long, she gets engaged to Lon and begins to eagerly anticipate her wedding day. But when she opens a newspaper one morning and finds a picture of Noah standing in front of a familiar house, she drives to Seabrook Island, unsure of where they stand.
Based on the well-received novel of the same name by author Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook succeeds as an effective romantic drama for one reason and one reason alone: the vulnerable and passionate performances of its lead actors. Gosling and McAdams are nothing short of electric – their on-screen chemistry is invigorating, their desire is palpable, and their personal investment in making their characters' relationship as believable as possible is apparent. Even when Jeremy Leven's screenplay resorts to clichéd developments and his dialogue is stilted by an over-exuberance for period nuances, the young stars manage to make everything feel quite natural. Of course, a strong supporting cast helps quite a bit. Allen, Shepard, Marsden, Connolly, and James Garner add a richness to the world that director Nick Cassavetes (John Q, Alpha Dog) seems unable to generate on his own.
Of course, The Notebook is also grade-A sap. Wedged in with a rather predictable modern-day subplot involving a nursing home patient with Alzheimer's disease, it's cunning, manipulative, and unrelenting when it comes to its tear-jerking sensibilities. In fact, I could easily identify the exact emotion Cassavetes wanted to elicit from his audience in each and every scene. The last fifteen minutes alone are so contrived and calculating that the most hard-hearted, chick-flick haters among you will have a difficult time keeping your eyes dry. Even the few seconds Cassavetes spends focusing on a snowy WWII battlefield are bubbling over with poorly implemented tragedy. Granted, such a heavy-handed tone is never distracting enough to ruin the film, but it still limits its long-lasting appeal and makes it difficult to sit through more than once.
All in all, The Notebook is a shaky romantic drama that relies on an exceptional cast to overcome a handful of fundamental shortcomings. High-def wives and girlfriends of the world will love it far more than your fellow Blu-ray brethren, but it's still a bearable period offering that should work for most people, regardless of whether or not they enjoy a good chick flick.
The Notebook Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Notebook features a crisp and colorful 1080p/VC-1 transfer that quickly puts its standard DVD counterpart to shame. The film's palette is vibrant, its interior scenes warm, and its exterior shots are ripe with lush greens and striking blues. Fleshtones are a bit flushed during the first act, but it appears to be an intentional tweak Cassavetes employed to make his young stars look even younger. Delineation is revealing, blacks are dark and deep (aside from some brief but problematic nighttime sequences), and contrast is spot on. More importantly, the BD transfer boasts sharp fine details and a series of refined textures. Fans no longer have to suffer through the murky, cluttered confines of the poorly-encoded DVD – individual hairs are well rendered, skin textures have been preserved, and distant details like swaying grass and healthy trees look fantastic. A handful of soft shots pop up here and there, but such filmic discrepancies should be attributed to the original print rather than the technical proficiency of the transfer. Best of all, the image isn't hindered by the rampant artifacting, source noise, and banding that plague the standard DVD.
Sigh… if only there wasn't so much edge enhancement. Take a moment and click on any of the screenshots on this page (pay particular attention to the silhouetted boatman and the soldiers in the snowfield). Notice the intrusive white lines that outline every actor, building, and foreground object in many of the shots? It's a noticeable and pervasive issue that tends to spoil the otherwise remarkable transfer. In this age of high definition and impeccable clarity, post-processing nonsense like edge enhancement (and digital noise reduction) are lazy, counterintuitive, and unnecessary.
The Notebook Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Blu-ray edition of The Notebook arrives with a stirring Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that delivers a more robust and involving representation of the film's original sound design than the standard DVD's paper-thin audio ever could. While the majority of the film is centered around hushed conversations and quiet exchanges, dialogue is intelligible, weighty, and perfectly prioritized within the mix. Even when voices share the soundscape with elements like Aaron Zigman's expressive score, the film's rousing period music, or one of Cassavetes more involving sequences (among them a fierce storm and a WWII bombing run), every word is unmistakably clear. The LFE channel doesn't have a lot to do, but it does imbue every action and movement with realistic heft and presence. Likewise, the rear speakers aren't tasked with any complicated action scenes, but they effectively enhance the film's interior acoustics and environmental ambience. Best of all, pans are smooth and transparent, directionality is accurate, and the soundfield is immersive.
The Notebook may not be filled with lumbering robots, rampaging superheroes, or blaring gunfire, but its TrueHD track will still satisfy any audiophile capable of appreciating a subtle sonic experience.
The Notebook Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Notebook: Limited Edition Giftset comes packaged in a sturdy, oversized box that includes an assortment of collectible knickknacks for diehard fans of the film. The disc is nestled neatly in the back of an attractive 46-page photo album/scrapbook that features production stills, character bios, and blank pages (for people who have the overwhelming desire to awkwardly insert their own memories into the mix). Below the album is a large red envelope that contains a pair of film-themed bookmarks, several dozen corner mounts for scrapbook photos, and two sheets of stickers featuring phrases like "will you go out with me?" and "I wanna go out with you!" Rounding out the Collector's Box is a tightly bound bundle of high-quality notecards and envelopes.
Nitpicks? A few. First and foremost, the Giftset's oversized box is an unsightly eyesore that even dwarfs most of the standard DVD sets on my shelf. I might be more willing to accept such a cumbersome set if I were dealing with a multi-disc classic that deserved to be displayed apart from my other BDs, but we're talking about The Notebook. Making matters worse, the disc isn't housed in a normal Blu-ray case, meaning you're either stuck with the collector's box or left with the task of creating a custom cover and ordering an extra BD case. Finally, anyone who actually does end up using the bonus scrapbooking items will be left with a vacant box that merely contains a simple photobook and disc.
All things considered, it's an extremely well-made (albeit terribly impractical) giftset that should make more than a few ladies grin this Valentine's Day. Thankfully, the dual-layer Blu-ray disc includes all of the special features that appeared on the previously released DVD edition of the film. While the video content is only presented in standard definition, the supplemental package should answer most lingering questions people have about the book, its adaptation, and the resultant film. I would have liked to see some more detailed behind-the-scenes documentaries, but they probably would have just trod the same ground as the disc's stellar audio commentaries.
The Notebook Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you can overlook its rather cumbersome box and impractical collector premiums, The Notebook: Limited Edition Giftset is worth your attention and consideration. It features a female-fan-favorite film most Valentines would adore, an impressive video transfer (marred only by obvious edge enhancement), an immersive TrueHD audio track, and a generous collection of supplemental materials. All that at an unexpectedly reasonable price point? Get a move on it gents... February 14th is fast approaching.
The Notebook: Other Editions
The Notebook Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Notebook Gets Regular Edition Blu-ray - March 4, 2010
Blu-ray enthusiasts for whom gift sets are just cumbersome boxes and collectibles mere trinkets will be glad to hear that Warner Home Video will release the New Line title The Notebook in a regular Blu-ray edition on May 4. In January 2009, this movie had been ...
• Today on Blu-ray - January 20th - January 20, 2009
In the heat of the format war, a great deal of emphasis was placed on player prices, an area where the rival HD DVD format had somewhat of an advantage. Highlighting that advantage was the Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD Add-on, which came packaged with one of the most ...
• New Line Details The Notebook Blu-ray - October 31, 2008
New Line Home Entertainment in conjunction with Warner Home Video have announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'The Notebook: Limited Edition Giftset', which is due to hit store shelves on January 20th, day-and-date ...
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