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Tuesday, March 1, 2011



Notes on a Scandal is a 2006 dramatic film directed by Richard Eyre. It follows the intertwining stories of two British schoolteachers. The elder is Barbara (Judi Dench), a lonely woman and seasoned teacher who rules her classroom with an iron fist. She befriends the new art teacher Sheba (Cate Blanchett) who is having a difficult time acclimating to the school. As their friendship progresses, Sheba starts to open up to Barbara which comes to no surprise to the older woman. She tells the audience via her diary writing that she has been the confidant of many a person in her past. One night before the Christmas break, Barbara catches Sheba in the throes of relations with a young student (Andrew Simpson). Rather than immediately reporting the incidence, Barbara decides to work the situation to her advantage. She insists that Sheba's secret is safe with her, causing Sheba to draw even closer to the older woman. However, when questions of loyalty and friendship begin to arise, Barbara has to decide whether to continue with her silence or tell the world of her friend's heinous act.

I've been meaning to watch Notes on a Scandal for quite a while and finally got around to doing just that. I've always been a fan of Cate Blanchett, but I can't say that I've seen a ton of Judi Dench fare. Her most recognizable role for me is as M in the James Bond films in which she's appeared. When I heard that both of those women had garnered Oscar nominations for their roles in this film, I knew that it had to be a must-see, for me at least. I'd like to say now that I wasn't disappointed by any means.

Let's start with the screenplay, as I so often do. It was adapted from Zoƫ Heller's 2003 novel of the same name and also nabbed an Oscar nomination. I was rather impressed with the actual story. When a movie is delving into the topics presented in Notes on a Scandal, you can imagine there might be a little hesitation from the filmmakers. Fortunately, Richard Eyre held nothing back and let the story unfold as it was meant to unfold. However, the story isn't exactly what drew me into the film. Yes, it's good - and it comes full circle, which is totally a plus - but what truly drew me into the movie were the completeness of the characters. Each individual character felt so real and believable. Barbara is the aging spinster who's so desperate to find a loving connection and companion that she'll go to any lengths, no matter how devious and undermining, to achieve what she wants. Sheba is an overworked mother of two who is struggling with her first foray into the teaching scene; she thinks that a real education comes from helping her students find something they love to do, and that's how she ultimately finds herself in her, well, "situation." Even our young student Stephen is a complete character despite having much less screen-time than you'd imagine. Kudos to our screenwriters for bringing such real characters to the screen.

Fortunately, Notes on a Scandal benefits from an all-star cast to bring those characters to life. Dench is a revelation, playing Barbara to a tee. I've never had the opportunity to see her in a role like this, but I think I'll have to delve a little deeper into her filmography. Blanchett is always spectacular; I don't think I've ever seen her in a bad role. I feel like there isn't much I can say about these two acting legends that hasn't already been said before, but I would like to talk about some of the supporting actors. Bill Nighy plays Sheba's husband Richard, and although he delivers a pedestrian performance for most of the film, he does have some rather brilliant, albeit over-the-top, scenes filled with anger and rage. I'd also like to give a shout out to one of the younger actors in the film. Juno Temple, who plays Richard and Sheba's daughter Polly, also has a relatively small role, but her scenes were so genuine that I couldn't help but fall in love with the character. I could go on and on about all of the actors in the film, but I'll just sum it up by saying that Notes on a Scandal brings a fine ensemble cast to the table, and they do not disappoint.

I feel like this review is a bit on the short side for my tastes, but I could be wrong. Notes on a Scandal is a solidly great film that's definitely worth watching. It's firing on all cylinders, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #171
2 Thumbs Up
Addition to Awards

1 comment:

  1. You have to watch reruns (on public TV) of "As Time Goes By" with Judi Dench and Geoff Palmer. It's a series in the UK with dry Brit humour (though it mightn't appeal to you cos you're younger) but I find their dialogue/banter to be funny. You do get to see another side of Judi Dench that's hardly shown in most of the film roles she plays. :) ^_^