By Al Kratina
March 8, 2007 - 17:48
Starring: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson
Directed by: Richard Eyre
Written by: Patrick Marber, Zoe Heller (novel)
Produced by: Robert Fox, Andrew M acdonald, Allon Reich, Scott Rudin
Release Date: January 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some aberrant sexual content.
Distributors: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Running Time: 92 minutes
If you've ever been 12 years old and taken your mother to see a movie that contained an inappropriate sex scene halfway through, there's no need to see Notes on a Scandal. Unless, of course, you enjoy that moment of mortal awkwardness that comes right after crossing your legs but before shifting uncomfortably in your seat for 90 minutes, because that's exactly what this movie is.
Cate Blanchett is a young teacher, a privileged member of the bourgeoisie who teaches art because it sounds romantic. At a lower class school she meets both sexually repressed obsessive Judi Dench and potty-mouthed urchin Steven Connelly. She befriends one and beds the other, but since either combination would be kind of revolting, it doesn't really matter which goes where. When Dench discovers Blanchett's affair, she uses it as leverage, subtly maneuvering herself to a constant presence in Blanchett's family, sort of like Single White Female but with more of a patrician chill.
The brilliance of the film is not limited to the multiple award-nominated performances by its cast. The script, by Patrick Marber and based on a Zoe Heller novel, is ingeniously constructed, revealing information in snippets as opposed to lengthy expository passages shoe-horned into a three-act structure. Also, by providing narration from Dench's diary, the film filters itself through her skewed and unreliable perspective, a technique that's all too rare in the age of omniscient, purely functional narration. Director Richard Eyre keeps things moving quickly, and has a refreshing ability to avoid the obvious, approaching information at oblique angles instead of straight on. Strong turns by character actor Bill Nighy and Andrew Simpson as Connelly further liven up the proceedings. It's a real shame, however, that despite all this, the film collapses completely at the end. The final few moments of Notes on a Scandal are so rushed, so disappointingly small, and so bizarrely like the open ending of a Friday the 13th sequel that I'm already standing in line for the opening of Notes on A Scandal 2: I've Still Noted What You Did Last Summer next Halloween. And while it may be a long, uncomfortable wait for part 2, it will certainly be less uncomfortable than watching this film again.
Rating: 8 on 10