Sunday, April 1, 2007

Notes on a Scandal (2006, Richard Eyre)

"A pottery teacher enters into an affair with one of her students, causing upheaval in her personal and professional lives."

I have never read about a person who hated this film. I have read of people not liking it too much but never a bad review. After seeing the film I can see why this one is hard not to like. The film has a lot of things going for it but the main thing that elevates this film a lot are the two powerful and intense performances by Dench and Blanchett. I am happy they got the recognition they truly deserved last year.

This film is another case of horrible advertising. The trailers and TV spots made it out to be a straight forward drama. This is not the case at all with Notes on a Scandal. This is one intense and to a certain point disturbing psychological thriller. It only lasts less than an hour and half but that hour and half will take you for a very dark journey and that will have you squirming a lot. Dench in particular is chilling and scary in this one, surprisingly. Out of all the nominated performances I have seen of last year she gives the best one by far.

The other thing that Notes has going for it is that it's a true psychological thriller. It feels like so long since I have seen a true thriller. It seems that nowadays everything seems to be labeled a thriller. Premonition is the latest example of this. A film that has car crashes and time travel is not my definition of a psychological thriller at all. Red Eye is another example of these modern "psychological thrillers" I also think that Red Eye is far from being a true thriller. However, Notes on a Scandal is the definition of a psychological thriller.

The film feels like it's action packed and very intense. You really do forget that the whole film is just people talking to each other. You also know that you are watching a great film when even the slightest sense of danger gets you glued on to the screen even more. Notes on a Scandal is filled with these kinds of scenes. The kind of scenes that leave you wanting to shout at the TV. When you combine this type of intense atmosphere with some even more intense performances and on top of all that some great direction you are guaranteed a memorable time.

I was truly loving the heck out of Notes on a Scandal until the very end. The film could easily fall into being classified as being too trashy or a little bit campy but yet it never does. Well, not until the ending. During the course of the film I kept wondering how the ending would be pulled off. I thought it could either go really extreme and take you out of the film or really subtle and just leave you wanting more. The ending had to be just right and the film called for a great ending that delivered everything you wanted it to deliver. Sadly the film goes the extreme route and completely takes you out of the film. I found the ending to be really over the top and felt too much like a typical Hollywood ending. It felt like the type of ending you would see in Premonition or Red Eye, not in a true psychological thriller like this one. I'll just say that I felt cheated in a small way.

Notes on a Scandal has it's share of flaws but they hard to really find. The great direction combined with the performances by the entire cast easily makes this one of the best films of 2006. I can't say that I loved all of it but I can say that I loved a great deal of it. It's worth watching just for Dame Judi Dench. I never thought I would say that, but seriously watch it just see her frightening performance.

- ***

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