Hello there, Readers, and welcome to the fourth installment of this off season. I received a great round of correspondence concerning my big sex scandal story. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. I’ve posted a picture of the now infamous pick up truck from that story on my Guy In Austin Facebook fan page if you’d like to check it out. Thanks to my “partner” MH for sending it to me. That picture brings back more memories than I can fit into my head. Hopefully, my story of teenage irresponsibility forced y’all to relive some of your own good memories. Incidentally, I have one or two more stories involving that particular pool. I’m saving them for a slow week, but now you know you have something to look forward to besides my general ramblings. Let’s get to it.
A bit despondent about some things this week, my thoughts took a darker turn than usual and I began to fear that inspiration would not hit me. Because it’s wildflower season here in Austin and the weather was incredible (sorry Midwesterners still shoveling snow), I decided to go for a run around Town Lake. My office sits on the northern shore of the lake so I packed a gym bag and made an upbeat playlist on my iPod in hopes of knocking some ideas loose after the responsibilities of my “real” job were adequately compartmentalized for the evening.
After work, I donned my running attire and hit the trail. As most of you are aware, I have the strength of ten men. However, on this particular day my mortality clung tightly on my back matched only by the first round of heat that Austin had seen in some time. We don’t technically have a “Winter” here in Austin. In fact, last year “Winter” occurred on a Thursday; however, temperatures through March are traditionally mild. On the day of my run it was unseasonably warm and I was clearly not used to it. Needless to say, inspiration remained several steps beyond my stride as I struggled to maintain my pace. Not even the Duran Duran on my iPod could push me forward. Alright, I’m kidding about the Duran Duran part---maybe.
As I made my way along the trail I turned onto the stairs leading to the Congress Street Bridge—a bridge inhabited by over 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats by the way—and began to run across the walkway on the west side of the bridge. As I did, I noticed my shoe had become untied and I stopped to fix the problem. When I looked up I saw a lone graffito on the newly painted white wall of the bridge. It simply read, “Smile, you look beautiful today.”
“Smile, you look beautiful today.” I love Austin, Texas. Even the vandals here have a positive message. Honestly, I did smile and as I began my run again my mind began to burst with positive ideas like the shores of Town Lake bursting with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, and purple wine cups. I owe a debt of gratitude to the miscreant who defaced the side of that bridge. Indeed a smile can be found anywhere if you’re open to it. Criminal mischief aside, seeing that changed my entire day. Thank you, positive-thinking juvenile delinquent.
Ideas juggling, I finished my run and came home to enjoy a cool shower and a giant glass of water. I read a little, opened some mail, checked some things online, and turned on the television. Flipping around, I eventually noticed the title of a movie I had heard a lot about but had never seen. My inspiration peaked and I knew I had the subject of my next blog. Yes, Readers, I had come full circle from down in the dumps to up in the clouds and I decided right then and there to watch from start to finish with an open mind the Holy Grail of all chick movies. I would review “The Notebook”.
Disclaimer: Look, I realize that it’s my job here to keep you entertained. Sometimes that involves blatant pandering to the audience and sometimes it involves me just saying “f*ck it” and writing what I want. I realize that the movie is one that evokes a lot of emotions in women. In fact, after tipping my hand and telling a couple of my female friends about my intent to write about it this week, one of them actually became visibly annoyed at the fact that I might attempt to slaughter the movie, which in her mind anyway, would lead to the utter destruction of true love itself. If you’re in the same camp, never fear, I’m certain Lincee Ray at www.ihategreenbeans.com will resurrect whatever I tear down.
After pondering the range of emotions that came to me after watching the movie uninterrupted from beginning to end, I realized that it appealed to different sides of my character. Like some modern day male Sybil, I had trouble reconciling my personalities’ reactions to the movie.
Ultimately, I decided to review “The Notebook” in two parts: My Inner Male and My Inner Female. I’ve carefully segregated the various aspects of my persona that had feelings about the movie. I’d love to hear which one you identify with the most. For the record, I liked the movie more than I hated it. Now, allow my personalities to elaborate.
For those of you who have never seen the 2004 movie—I’m probably speaking to my male readers here—it’s a story set in the 1940’s that focuses around a lumber yard worker named Noah Calhoun and a jobless rich girl named Allie Hamilton. The narration takes place in the present day at an old folks home where an old man reads the love story to a forgetful old woman. We soon learn that the old folks are, in fact, Noah and Allie in the waning years of their lives.
Noah reads to Allie in hopes that her dementia will subside long enough for a moment of clarity so he can have her again, if not for just a few minutes. The entire thing is based on the book by Nicholas Sparks. Normally, I prefer a book over a movie, but I didn’t read it in this case. I have no opinion on what type of writer he is, nor do I care for purposes of this post. This one is about the movie.
FINALLY, here are my reviews of “The Notebook” from two, very opposite sides of my personality.
THE CYNICAL, MACHO, UNCOMPROMISINGLY MALE SIDE OF ME
The movie begins with a soft music and some guy rowing on a lake at sunrise while some old broad looks knowingly out the window as if she was trying to remember where she’d seen geese before. I was already bored stiff.
The guy from the Rockford Files comes into her room at the old folks’ home and offers to read to her but the cranky old lady refuses. Frankly, I would have wished her a good day, told her to enjoy her applesauce and water from a plastic cup and bendy straw and left to go play shuffle board on the quad in hopes of hooking up with a lucent sixty-something for one last roll in the hay.
Regardless, Jim Rockford ignores her bitching and begins to read to her about a guy named Noah and a girl named Allie as we flash back to the early ‘40’s before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Noah is played by Ryan Gosling. He’s basically a blonde version of Keanu Reeves when it comes to his range as an actor. He’s wooden, expressionless, and boring. However, he dresses like Brad Pitt, apparently works in a lumberyard, and immediately wants to have sex with Allie when he sees her. The guy who plays “E” on Entourage is his best buddy and despite also dressing like Brad Pitt, he’s basically “E” in “The Notebook”. He tells Noah that Allie and her hoity toity friends are out of his league.
Allie is played by Rachel McAdams who—with the exception of that horrible psycho on a plane movie—plays the same character in every movie, including Wedding Crashers. She’s pretty, virginal but not innocent, and was properly cast. They could have picked someone with bigger cans, but hey, she’ll do. Allie is happy, on summer vacation in Seabrook, South Carolina, and free of responsibility. Ignoring the fact that rich, spoiled girls can never be made whole by the man they marry, Noah decides to c*ck block her date and ask her out.
Noah butts into Allie’s date and Allie’s date sits there like a pansy in a flowerbed despite his date being openly hit on by Noah. Perhaps her date was bored with him as well. At any rate, Noah climbs the Ferris wheel where Allie and her date are riding and proceeds to hang from the ride one handed until she agrees to go out with him. Whatever. If I had been Allie’s date Noah would have been forced to swallow his Brad Pitt hat long before the stunt on the Ferris wheel. Also, if Allie had agreed to go on a date with him while I was shelling out cash for carnival rides and Ferris wheels, she would have been walking her romantic ass all the way home. Romantic moment or not, dance with the one who brought you, Allie. Trolling for men while you’re on a date is not cool; especially in front of your date.
In a very Danny and Sandy-esque fashion, Noah and Allie proceed to gallivant around Seabrook for the entire summer. Despite having a back breaking job in the lumber yard and apparently no money, Noah manages to find time for daytime walks, bike rides, and picnics as he and Allie play a perpetual game of grabass until we learn from Jim Rockford that they fell madly in love. The old lady remains cranky but interested. She bitches some more at James Garner as the stereotypical overweight black nurse enters to give him his medicine before he continues reading. He should have reminded her that Silence is Golden. Either that or he could have reminded her that Duct Tape is Silver. She finally shuts up, preferring golden silence to silver duct tape and he continues reading.
We meet Noah’s affable father played by Sam Shepard, a real life Pulitzer Prize winner, and he makes Allie some pancakes while recounting embarrassing stories about Noah’s speech problem. At least we had a frame of reference for his lack of personality, I thought.
Eventually, Allie’s rich parents come from Atlanta to retrieve their daughter and discover that she’s dating some poor lumberyard worker who dresses like Brad Pitt and acts like Keanu Reeves. Dad and his weird mustache don’t care too much but her domineering, judgey mother does and she and Noah’s plans at happiness are destined to be thwarted.
We later learn that mom fell in love with some guy from the lumber yard but married dad because—all things considered—he was a nice enough guy in spite of his weird mustache and was dripping with cash. Frankly, that scenario was the most believable in the movie. I found her hatred of Noah and her assertion of him as “trash” to be inconsistent with her character. She fell in love with a poor lumber yard guy and ditched the guy for cash; a move she apparently made peace with but regretted for a lifetime. Calling Noah “trash” diminishes the validity of that relationship and her belief in the true love that this whole thing is supposed to be about—in my mind anyway. Allie has family money and is free to pursue her heart. I have no idea why her mother wouldn’t support that. Perhaps it’s because the book was written by a man. It seems that the father should have been the one with the problem and not the mother. Annnyyyyhoooo . . .
Noah takes Ali to a dilapidated plantation home called Windsor Mansion and exposes her to the dangers of unstable ceilings and flammable, brittle wood. He tells her of his dream of restoring the place if only he had the money to do it. Then they stand across from each other and undress before “E” sounds the alarm that Allie’s parents are back in town. Dude. He put up with bike rides, picnics, and flowers all summer and didn’t get any? I began to see why this movie was so sad.
Noah and Allie eventually fight and regretfully break up before her parents haul her spoiled, rich ass back to her mansion in Atlanta. Noah broods a bunch and eventually enlists in the army after hearing about the Pearl Harbor attack. How romantic. Despite undoubtedly being stripped of all his belongings and identity and being shipped off to basic training until eventually ending up on a packed warship and traveling overseas to be placed in the gun sights of angry Aryans vying for world domination and watching “E” from Entourage die on the battlefield, Noah manages to write (and mail) Allie one pristinely penned love letter per day for 365 days. After no response for a year, his pen gives up—but alas, his heart does not. Come on. I laughed to myself at the thought of Noah having the wrong zip code or house number. We eventually learn that her lumber yard-whoring mother has been intercepting all of them.
While Noah is dodging shrapnel, killing Germans, and watching his best friend die, Alli poontangs around the Atlanta social scene with Lon Hammond, a rich guy she met while pretending to volunteer at some place for wounded soldiers. She loves Noah so much that—get this--she boozes it up with the rich folks at fancy galas and eventually gets engaged to Lon Hammond and his money. True love, my ass.
Noah returns home to Atlanta and sees Alli poontanging around with an engagement ring on her finger. Heartbroken, he returns to Seabrook where his dad fortuitously tells him that he’s sold his house so that Noah can buy and renovate the Windsor Mansion. His dad kicks the bucket unexplainably and Noah miraculously and singlehandedly renovates the entire plantation into a perfectly finished and manicured piece of artwork in less time than it takes him to grow a beard and appear Amish despite having limited funds and a new war-widowed girlfriend who undoubtedly insisted on picking out the colors for the walls, drapery, and all of the bedding.
All by himself? Hell, the guy didn’t even ask a contractor for a rough estimate. I asked a guy for a rough estimate once. He kicked me in the balls and then quoted me the price. I’ll be here all week, folks.
Noah even manages to include a furniture shop for himself and a painting studio for Allie complete with the symbolic blank canvas awaiting her return. I assumed the canvas symbolized Gosling’s absence of depth rather than Noah’s undying desire for a blank future with Allie.
While getting her ass kissed in her wedding dress, Allie sees Noah’s picture in the paper next to his high dollar house and faints because she believes he is now Amish. She bathes in her veil and eventually meets her rich, understanding, good looking, tolerant, well-mannered, doting, successful, non-possessive, supportive, giant ring-buying, sensitive fiancé at his office where he happily takes a few moments away from earning a living so she can have the finest things to which she’s become accustomed in order tell him that she’s going to Seabrook to poontang around there for a bit. Incredibly, the guy agrees. Bull. Sh*t.
Allie fills the car her fiancé bought her with gas purchased by money he gave her and heads to Seabrook in search of Noah. She arrives at the new house and after faking like she’s not there to sleep with him she and Noah have a rekindling of sorts as he respectfully recognizes her pending nuptials and opts for a friendship instead. Sparing her the details of his arduous battlefield missive writing, he instead throws her in a rowboat and takes her to see a flock of digitally created geese in a swamp and pretends like they are romantic symbols of their love rather than the angry, noisy, disease carrying fowl that they really are. Allie sits there in her sun dress in amazement as Noah overcomes his sore, pre-arthritic joints and his post traumatic stress disorder so he can transport her spoiled ungrateful ass across the lake. Meanwhile, her fiancé continues to work in anticipation of a family with Allie.
On the way back to the perfectly renovated mansion Noah confesses that he is not, in fact, Amish even though he dresses like he is, wears a beard like an Amish person, and builds wooden furniture. He tells Allie that he’s dedicated his every waking moment since that day on the Ferris wheel to her happiness, even at the cost of his own. As it begins to pour Allie has the balls to drop a “why didn’t you write me” and Noah eventually realizes that he should have used FedEx with a signature requirement rather then relying upon regular mail.
Allie then makes the conscious decision to cheat on her rich, understanding, good looking, tolerant, well-mannered, doting, successful, non-possessive, supportive, giant ring-buying, sensitive fiancé and ends up getting slammed against an antique cupboard while ripping off Noah’s wet, Amish clothes and throwing them on the newly finished wood floor where they undoubtedly soaked into the finish and ruined that section of the wood before Noah ravishes her in the same bed that he ravished the war widow in the day before. Details.
I’m certain that while Allie was painting topless in the studio Noah built her with nothing more than his bare hands and the labor of his undying love Noah was downstairs the following morning sanding the water damage out of the floor in order restain and reseal it. Eventually, her mother and her fiancé figure it out and we avoid the messy conversation about betrayal, dishonesty, infidelity, and self-centeredness that was appropriate. Instead, we get a watered down version of her rich, understanding, good looking, tolerant, well-mannered, doting, successful, non-possessive, supportive, giant ring-buying, and sensitive fiancé actually being—well, understanding, tolerant, non-possessive, supportive, and sensitive about it all.
We cut back to the modern day where we see that James Garner has suffered a series of heart attacks while Allie has drifted aimlessly in and out of interest in the story. We get a glimpse of their children and grand children as the old Noah tells them that he’s not leaving Allie alone. Eventually, she recognizes him for a couple of minutes and they share a dance before she freaks out and has to be sedated. He ends up sneaking into her hospital room and lying in bed with her and, after they agree that their love and conquer all, they die side by side holding hands and are discovered by the stereotypical overweight black nurse the following morning.
It’s at this point in the movie that we’re all supposed to have a tear in our eye and a tissue in our hand reveling in the presence of true, undying love. That’s not what ran through the cynical, macho, uncompromisingly male side of my brain. Basically, “The Notebook” is Forrest Gump except it’s not funny and Noah is not mentally challenged—arguably. The point of “The Notebook” is that no matter how much you love a woman she will inevitably go crazy and drive you to an early death. The entire movie is about a spoiled little rich girl who always got her way.
Picture this movie:
A poor, attractive, hard working girl from a single parent home with no money ventures out to the state fair where she meets the man of her dreams who is from a well-to-do family vacationing for the summer on the rich side of her town. They fall madly in love and spend a summer sharing the simple things that make life worth living. Eventually, the man’s parents send him away from the town and the woman is heartbroken. She spends hours upon hours writing letters in hopes of his return. She pines for him relentlessly seeking solace in no one and dedicating her entire existence to the hope of his return.
He goes to school, lives the fast life and beds dozens of women while living off his family money. He eventually falls in love with another woman with family money who supports him and buys him everything he wants. He accepts her affection and proposes a marriage of convenience only to return to town years later and pray on the affections of the dedicated woman. He lies to his friends and family and moves into the woman’s house where she has kept a room for him despite his lack of contact. He cheats on his fiancé and eventually calls of the wedding so he can be with the other woman.
Not the same movie, is it?
Double Standard. If a woman does this it’s considered “romance” or “undying love.” If a man does the same thing, he’s a cheater and a louse. It’s along the same lines as when a group of women leave their children and their husbands at home in order to get together to drink pinot grigio and pick out sex toys at a friend’s house. Can you imagine having a husband come home and announce that he was leaving for the evening to hang out with his buddies and use some of the family money to buy a couple of sex toys? I suppose that’s just the way the non-renovated plantation crumbles.
Now, for my sensitive take.
SOFT, SENSITIVE, FEMALE SIDE OF ME
The movie begins with a beautiful picture of a mysterious man rowing through undisturbed water at sunrise as if he is the only man on earth. Sunrise symbolizes a new beginning; the dawn of something real; the new presence of light where only dark had been. The speed of is phallic-shaped boat disturbs the peace of pristine, white geese and they fly away catching the attention of a contemplative looking older woman viewing them from a far off window seemingly in search of an answer she once possessed years ago when her mind was clear and her heart was full.
A handsome, kind man enters the room of what we see is a retirement home and offers to read to the woman as her nurse assists her into her chair. We flash back to a positive time before Pearl Harbor when hope and dreams lived inside all Americans, possibility was abundant, and war was a thing that occurred overseas.
We meet the unassuming Noah Calhoun played by Ryan Gosling. His demure, understated manner does little to hide his masculine build and Southern charm. We also meet Allie, an innocent, happy girl on the edge of becoming a woman. She has no idea that fate has placed her heart—indeed her entire life—on a collision course with young Noah.
Noah sees what he loves and attempts to ask Allie on a date. She doesn’t love the man she’s with but is taken aback by Noah’s boldness. She continues to refuse until he throws all caution to the wind and climbs the Ferris wheel in order to convince her of what she already knows. She agrees to go out with him and from that day on they share wonderful picnics, bike rides, and walks through town. Noah is a perfect gentleman and despite his lack of financial resources he showers her with riches that no money can buy. They fall deeply in love and Allie soon realizes that Noah speaks all of her love languages fluently. She is fulfilled and smitten. He is indeed the man of her dreams. He is like a macho, younger, good looking version of Dr. Phil.
Incidentally, I consider myself a gentleman. I was once in the town of Progresso, Mexico at a bar called Belly to Belly where they had $1.25 Corona beers and a mechanical bull. After getting hammered and riding the bull a few times I offered to remove my pants so that one of the girls in the group I was with could put them on over her mini skirt so she could ride the bull. I sat there in my underwear in a Mexican bar while she put on my pants and rode the bull. Who says chivalry is dead? Back to Noah and Allie.
On a night when the summer air is cool and the humidity is low, Noah takes Allie to a plantation home named Windsor Mansion where he has planned a candlelight picnic with wine and all of Allie’s favorite foods. He shares his dream of remodeling the mansion in her honor; sort of like a shrine to their impenetrable love. Grateful, she undresses carefully in anticipation of his strong, calloused, yet gentle hands exploring her taut, young frame in ways she has dreamed of since seeing him hang like a jackass off a Ferris wheel. She loves Noah and knows that words like “banging,” “boning,” “porking,” and “screwing” are not part of his vocabulary. Indeed, the only thing on his mind is tender, passionate love making followed by spooning and cuddling in the soft candlelight.
Unfortunately, before the tender, passionate love making can occur, Noah’s best friend warns that Allie’s heretofore absent parents have returned to Seabrook in search of their daughter. Undaunted—and still passionately in love —Noah respectfully takes her home and listens as Allie argues with her parents about her forbidden love. Distraught, Noah leaves and eventually get stopped by Allie who passively aggressively breaks up with him in the name of saving his heart—and her own. Heartbroken, she is forced to leave town prematurely.
Devastated at the loss of his one, true love Noah dedicates his entire existence to the profession of that love. He pens daily letters from home, aboard ships, and even from the battlefield where every bullet, every German, every explosion bears with it the reminder of his separation from Allie. He longs for her and his heart breaks each morning as he rises from dreams of Allie and his eyes reveal the sight of the insides of his canvas tent miles from the home he longs to share with Allie after completing some difficult yet not impossible renovations by himself including, a small art studio in the westward facing spare bedroom for his true love.
Simultaneously heartbroken, Allie buries herself in her routine. College, fancy balls, charity events, and social functions fill her days, but not her heart. She secretly longs for Noah while pretending to enjoy partying until dawn with rich people on their dime and eventually settling for the affections of a well-meaning, well-to-do veteran she befriended while volunteering her time at an injured soldier hospital in a vain attempt to fill her heart with the love she knew during that fateful Seabrook summer. No, not even the giant diamond engagement ring that would eventually weigh on her left ring finger could compare with the weight of loss upon her heart. She’s forced to poontang around Atlanta, but never stops loving Noah. Yes, time flies like the wind, but fruit flies like bananas. She longs for a simple plantation life.
Engaged, she eventually learns via the newspaper that Noah has grown a beard and miraculously and singlehandedly restored her dream plantation home in less time than it took him to grow the aforementioned beard. She reluctantly deceives her fiancé and returns to seek her one, true love and his multi-million dollar house. They make passionate, unapologetic love after seeing geese and getting caught in a rain storm and eventually marry, have a family, and live a long, fruitful life before dying together, in love and in peace. Sigh……
See the difference? I’ll reluctantly admit that I found the movie both interesting and thought provoking. I really did. Yes, it was sappy, unrealistic from a practical point of view, cheesy at times, and very chick oriented. However, the larger picture is that true love never dies and that every woman wants to feel as loved and secure as Allie ultimately ended up feeling—everything else be damned. I get that and I’d venture a guess that most men would too if forced to admit it. As the lonely war widow told Noah, “a woman knows when a man looks into her eyes and sees someone else.” The same is true for a man. And as the old Noah said to his children, “that's my sweetheart in there. Wherever she is, that's where my home is.” That, too, is the truth. The entire movie reminded me of an old Vern Gosdin song titled “Chiseled in Stone.” That song takes two and a half minutes, not two and a half hours. Download it and listen. Let me know what you think.
Well, there it is: My take on “The Notebook”. I hope you enjoyed it. Until next week, take care of yourselves and remind someone that you love them. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be growing a beard and remodeling my mansion singlehandedly. DP