Notes on a Scandal
Director: Richard Eyre
Novel: Zoe Heller
Screenplay: Patrick Marber
Producers: Robert Fox, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Scott Rudin
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Andrew Simpson, Bill Nighy
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 92 min
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reviewed by Misael Soto
     At least once a year a movie comes along that I can't wait to see, with a trailer as calculated and convincing as ever, starring some of the best acting talent available, and usually featuring an enrapturing score (in this case by the clearly aging Philip Glass). And although the film gets a slightly above average score on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, friends and amateur online critics can't seem to say anything negative about the film. "One of the best films of the year" they'll say. "Gripping", "What a thriller!", "A Masterpiece!", are all commonly used. And so I go to the theatre and, while gripping and enthralling for sure, the film is hardly original. Perhaps a masterpiece if released 40 years ago but today it's merely a lesser version of Taxi Driver or Psycho or any given landmark film of its respective genre. Notes on a Scandal is the perfect example of such a film.

      I knew exactly everything that was going to happen after the first couple of minutes (of course the trailer didn't help much with that). It’s very simply a story about two very flawed women both living in two very different worlds, the film being the nasty convergence of the two. The basic premise consisting of blackmail and the perversities of middle class repression has never truly been tackled originally since the sixties and Notes on a Scandal is very nearly a cookie-cutter version of these predecessors. The script proves to be one cliché after another.

      Seemingly regardless of these rather alarming faults I was hooked from the very beginning, enthralled and simultaneously yearning for director Richard Eyre to surprise me with an unexpected plot twist or some rarely seen complex character development. Of course I was thoroughly disappointed, but up until the film’s conveniently wry ending I was very much entertained. The compelling acting, pitch perfect score, and air tight script proved simply mesmerizing, almost distractingly so . . . almost.

      Not to sound condescending or pretentious in any way, but it’s films like this that separate true cineastes from the rest of the more normal average moviegoers. Those who think they've seen a masterpiece when in actuality they only have yet to see the true original the film is pilfering from. They're oblivious to the fact that cinema (as with any art) has a history, one which we cannot ignore, not if we are to give our opinion seriously and with notable affect.

      Legends of their respective generations, Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett as well as nearly every actor involved, deserve the recognition they’ve received. Despite its mediocrity, the film's performances, as with all its individual parts, are completely unaffected and without fault. The film’s screenplay is as defined and “successful” as possible. Phillip Glass’s score, although somewhat reminiscent of his previous work is perfectly adequate, hitting the precise notes when needed. Its cinematography is certainly noteworthy and beautiful. Notes on a Scandal is a good film. In fact, it's very nearly perfect. But all of these immaculate individual parts do not a good film make. Basing itself around the maddeningly lonely main character, Dench’s Barbara Covett, this is a film with no real personality, no interesting mistakes nor outstanding ideas or originality. Eyre’s ideas have been more effectively and thoroughly represented in 2 minutes and 7 seconds of music, in the Beatles timeless Eleanor Rigby. And following the template of films past is what I'd expect from a film student, not a semi-established film director. Personally I’d save my money and an extra 90 minutes of my time spending it listening to the Beatles instead.



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Links:
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
Official Site
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