July 05, 2004 12:00 PM

Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands

A courtly older gent at a nursing home reads aloud from a handwritten journal to a faded blonde beauty. The woman (Rowlands) can’t remember much these days, but the man (Garner) is hoping his tale will penetrate her mental fog. It’s a love story about a comely pair just before World War II. Noah (Gosling) is a local boy toiling in the sawmill in Seabrook, N.C., while Allie is a rich girl spending the summer in this small town. The two meet, fall head over heels for each other, and then, well, things get complicated. What’s the relationship between the older duo and the younger pair? One guess.

The Notebook is an unabashedly romantic tale that teeters close to melodrama. Based on a bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks, it plays like a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that you have to be below a certain age or have a high tolerance for mush not to wince at the forced plot twists and mooning looks. What saves Notebook, or at least lifts it above itself, are the hints of hard-won grit that both Gosling and Garner inject into their characters. (PG-13)


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