On the Big Board
||A nasty and gripping little British film about the perils of stalkiness and gossip. Well, to the stalkee, anyway.
||The music is almost too much.
||I don't dispute that the performances are all great, but the movie itself is too quirky and ultimately unsatisfying.
Notes on a Scandal has all the makings of being that smaller, less-hyped, film that could garner lots of Oscar attention come nomination season. It certainly has the pedigree. Oscar winners Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench star in the adaptation of Zoe Heller's book (which in the U.S. was entitled "What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal", but its original title in the U.K. was simply "Notes on a Scandal"). The script is by Oscar-nominee Patrick Marber (Closer) and more significantly, is directed Richard Eyre, who guided Dench and most of his main cast to an Oscar nods in Iris.
The plot of the book is actually perfect fodder for film -- an older, unmarried and lonely veteran teacher (Dench) at an English private school becomes friends with the new, more out-going, full of life pottery teacher (Blanchett). The conceit of the novel was that it was the older woman's "journal" so the reader was never sure how reliable a reporter its author was. As the younger teacher gets caught in a scandal involving one of her students, this unreliability becomes the central question of the reader. Given the right screenwriter the movie could be an interesting puzzle of what is being seen on the screen and what has really occurred. Playwrite Marber certainly has the credentials to handle this challenge. Even if the film fails to engage the viewer in the same way the readers of the novel were, certainly the talent of its two leading actresses will. Blanchett is starring in three films this fall/winter, all of them with buzz and prestige (Steven Soderbergh's The Good German and Babel are the other two). Dame Judi Dench is always masterful, even in the smallest of roles. Her role in Notes on a Scandal is not small, and will let her talents resonate fully.