Release Date: January 20, 2008
Studio: New Line Cinema
Packaging/Materials: Photo album digipack housed in a heavy cardboard collectible box
Running Time: 2h04m
|MAIN FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1||480i or 480p standard definition (deleted scenes are in high definition)|
|Audio||Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital: English 5.1, German 5.1, Russian 5.1||Stereo|
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, German, Russian||German and Russian (on select bonus material)|
The Feature: 4/5
"The Notebook" tells a simple story of two people in love. They come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and have vastly different life experiences, but their passion for one another unites them in a way that transcends such things. Their love lasts a lifetime and that lifetime comes to embody values that are both admirable and rare. It's a kind of love that most of us have longed for, dreamed about and ultimately idealized. And it's a kind of love that is perfect for the escapist reality that movies provide.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. There is value in hope and idealization. They can provide something to strive for, a standard by which to live and measure up. The problem comes when we fail to recognize the work and the struggle that make such things last. The commitment that by necessity must exist with the passion.
That's the only true criticism that I have about the film, that it continues the trend of making love - lifelong love - look so easy. Though it's certainly a fantasy, it is not a fantasy in the sense of being untrue or impossible. I believe the kind of love depicted exists and is possible. But as much as that love can be conceived it also must survive. That's a much harder film to make, though one I hope to see and to see embraced with the same enthusiasm as has been shown for films like this one.
As it is, "The Notebook" is well acted, perfectly cast and though unabashedly sentimental, not manipulatively so. It properly earns the emotions it elicits, convincing us of Noah and Allie's love through undeniable sexual chemistry between leads Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams and then the tender devotion between James Garner and Gena Rowlands, who play the characters in their autumn years. And though the story has its share of the familiar - a controlling mother who thinks Noah is trash, a crucial miscommunication that keeps the lovers apart, and a critical moment in a big rainstorm - they are necessities to complete the fantasy (imagine a storybook tale without a wicked queen or stepmother). For keeping the hope for big love alive, "The Notebook" does its job, even though most of us realize that reality may be only a fraction as easy as the dream.
Video Quality: 4/5
Accurately framed at 2.40:1, the video is encoded in VC-1 and generally free of blemishes. Black levels are deep and inky and shadow detail and delineation are excellent in the night and several candle lit scenes. Fine object detail is very good, with no obvious signs of noise reduction, though mild to moderate edge halos are consistently visible and one shot in particular shows noticeable noise. Some wide shots also look a little indistinct, though sharpness is generally good with only a few moments of softness that ultimately could be source related. Contrast and color are accurate and can be quite striking in some of the scenic shots - the sunsets over the water and the moon framed by silhouetted branches.
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio track is front-focused in this dialogue-driven film, offering nominal activity in the surrounds for some atmospheric effects and light music cues. The one moment that would call for LFE proved it to be non-existent, though bass response is generally full and clean. I did have a little trouble discerning some moments of dialogue and the mix across the front array seemed a little muddy or hollow at times.
The 640 kbps 5.1 Dolby Digital track sounds a little edgy in comparison, but I expect most would only tell with aggressive A-B switching between tracks.
Special Features: 4/5
All the items from the 2004 DVD release are included. The featurettes and trailer are in standard definition, but the deleted scenes are in high definition. The physical items are mostly superficial. As with other collector sets like "Casablanca," it would have been nice if fans were given the option to purchase a disc-only release.
Commentary with Director Nick Cassavetes: Cassavetes is an engaging and enthusiastic commentator, covering the requisite topics about the production and offering a good blend of production anecdotes and technical information. He can get distracted at times and lose his train of thought, but it makes for a natural, conversational presentation.
Commentary with "The Notebook" novelist Nicholas Sparks: Sparks is more low key compared to Cassavetes and doesn't offer the same kind of stream of information, but he offers some good insights into the Southern culture and geography and the differences between the novel and the film.
"All In the Family: Nick Cassavetes" (11m39s): Electronic press kit (EPK) style featurette covers Cassavetes's directorial efforts on the film and includes interviews with the principal actors and the director himself. Particular emphasis is placed on his being an "actor's director" and his working style.
"Nicholas Sparks: A Simple Story, Well Told" (6m36s): Another EPK piece about the popularity of Sparks's first novel and the author's popularity in general.
"Southern Exposure: Locating the Notebook" (11m33s): A look at the film's shooting locations in and around Charleston, South Carolina. Locations highlighted include the old Navy base in North Charleston, the American Theater, the William Aiken House, Boone Hall Plantation, Martins Point Plantation, Edisto Island, the Black River Plantation, and the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant.
"Casting Ryan and Rachel" (4m06s): How Gosling and McAdams were cast for the film, including some of the footage from McAdams's audition.
"Rachel McAdams Screen Test" (3m37s): A portion of the riveting and phenomenal audition that landed McAdams the part. Unfortunately it's only a portion.
Deleted Scenes (28m33s): Twelve scenes with optional commentary by Editor Alan Heim. Heim's explanations for the removals are pretty standard fare (e.g. time, pacing, redundancy, etc.) but it's his description of the editing process that makes it interesting, particularly dealing with nudity and the MPAA, which at one point he casually calls the "censorship board."
Theatrical Trailer (2m19s)
- 46-page photo and scrapbook album (which also holds the disc) includes production stills, story highlights and character profiles. Extra pages allow you to include your own memories.
- Decorative stickers (sporting statements like "True Love" and "My Sweetheart") and photo corners for dressing up your photos in the album.
- Two "The Notebook" laminated paper bookmarks.
- Set of 16 blank "The Notebook" notecards with envelopes.
The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5
An unabashed, sentimental romance gets a very good video transfer, decent audio treatment and a special features package that carries over disc-based extras from the previous DVD release and adds some physical items. But for its first appearance in high definition it would have been nice if buyers had a choice between this limited edition set and a disc-only release. As it is, those interested in the film are forced to buy things they ultimately have no interest in owning.