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Notes on a Scandal

Art House & International movie directed by Richard Eyre

< read all 9 reviews

There's too many lonely people in this world

  • May 14, 2007
  • by
Rating:
+3
Food, water, clothing and shelter are the things human beings need to physically survive. But our highly evolved brains require something else as well: connection. We seek it through friends, lovers, music, pets, soap opera characters and in certain desperate situations probably soccer balls. Without it, we will surely go mad. Mad like the aptly named Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), who, in turns her attention to a new co-worker in her desperate, endless quest to... connect.

Both Barbara and newly hired Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) are teachers at a British high school. Embittered Barbara has retreated into a position of being feared enough to baby-sit her students without incident. Told through the icy, disturbing prose of Barbara narrating from her diary, "Notes on a Scandal" is a brilliant, unflinching look into the dark heart of loneliness. Dench is amazing: It would be easy enough for the story to view Barbara as a diabolical spinster fiend looking to ruin the happiness of the poor, nice people around her. After all, Hollywood made that movie a couple dozen times in the years following Fatal Attraction. Both of the film's lead characters are morally corrupt, though it is hard not to feel sympathy for the pair of them. Playing against type effectively, Dench's Barbara ranges from such monstrous and reprehensible selfish acts of manipulation, but then the fragility and loneliness with which Dench endows her forbids us from condemning her completely. Meanwhile, Blanchett makes us sympathise with the well-painted Sheba, trying to escape her everyday life with her Down's Syndrome son and older husband (the wonderful Bill Nighy).

Sheba's relationship, or at least affair, with her pupil ( now 18-year-old Andrew Simpson) never in any sense comes across as acceptable in any way, and Simpson straddles the adolescent schoolchild/adult boundary very well. We're made to understand the characters' situation without ever being made to accept it.

Director Richard Eyre stages all this with a perfect eye toward detail and human behavior, keeping the fires of a thriller burning at all times through the characters' fear of having both their crimes and their feelings discovered. Having never read Zoe Hiller's novel What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, I can't say with certainty how much of the sensational dialog comes from her and how much from Marber, but either way, his screenplay adaptation is outstanding as well as the over-the-top soundtrack from Philip Glass who helped kept up the tension levels throug out this film.

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More Notes on a Scandal reviews
review by . March 06, 2010
Pros: Dench and Blanchett ... outstanding     Cons: none for me     The Bottom Line:   "Betrayal, Betrayal,  Will this world make better sense?  Once you mean nothing to me..."  ~The Black Maria     I absolutely love it when they give you the unexpected and make it seem so expected. By the time Notes On A Scandal finished you almost forgot what the initial scandal was about because it had turned into …
review by . December 15, 2008
DVD
Lonely high school teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench)'s only confidant is her diary, in which she records her intimate thoughts and frequent delusions of happiness. Young Sheba (Cate Blanchett) joins the faculty and Barbara's fascination with her soon turns to obsession. When she discovers Sheba's affair with a student, Barbara agrees to keep the secret, but her unreasonable demands of Sheba's time and loyalty lead to disaster.     What a movie! It is absolutely wonderful. Both …
review by . February 06, 2008
Barbara is one of those gargoyles of a teacher we all had in junior high. Her students regard her with apprehension, but few who know her know what she really is. Barbara's a predator. A master of manipulation, her victims remain trustfully unaware of the danger that lurks until it's way too late. Notes on a Scandal is populated by users. Sure, they can differentiate right from wrong, but when it comes down to something they want, they're consciences are very flexible. But Barbara alone possesses …
review by . November 25, 2007
Pros: Dench's and Blanchett's performances; direction.     Cons: Predictable at times.     The Bottom Line: Probably one of the best films you haven¬ít seen in quite some time.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Despite our tendency toward the wholesale slaughter of our fellows from time-to-time, we humans are social creatures. Even I, an admitted introvert, at times suffered from bouts of loneliness …
review by . November 02, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Based on the book by Zoe Heller, NOTES ON A SCANDAL is a most intriguing drama-thriller starring Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench in two of their most gutsy and honest performances.    Public school history teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) is a self-sufficient loner, preferring to keep to herself, recording all her thoughts and poisonous opinions about her colleagues in various diaries. When new art teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) arrives on the scene, Barbara writes …
review by . April 20, 2007
NOTES ON A SCANDAL invites the audience to read the diary of a very lonely, crusty, frumpy, acerbic history teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) through the voice-over narrative throughout this challenging, harsh, but very brave cinematic version on the novel 'What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal' by Zoe Heller, brilliantly adapted for the screen by Patrick Marber. It is a success on every level - story, direction, cinematography, and especially acting.    Barbara Covett …
review by . April 19, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Acting, story, music, how the mood is set and maintained      Cons: None      The Bottom Line: This is a type of Lolita with genders reversed and blackmail thrown in for extra tension. Not a 'fun' movie, but certainly a brilliant one.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      I must admit to a minor literary sin; I have never read Lolita. I know from having …
review by . February 04, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Notes on a Scandal is a decently scripted, nicely filmed melodrama, lifted by a great performance from Judi Dench, who manages her character's gentle arc from lonely old battleaxe to psychotic nutcase well - though it remained, over the whole course of the film, too easy to empathise with Barbara: when she should have been approaching skin-crawling territory: the literate and dryly delivered bon mots of Barbara's diary, and her gentle allusions to Virginia Woolf, didn't wane and she remained the …
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Jen-Jay AKA:JJI ()
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Gold stars to all for this taut psychological thriller based on Zoe Heller's novel that that gets more insidiously twisted as it unfolds. Oscar-nominated for her chilling performance, Dame Judi Dench gives a master class as schoolteacher Barbara Covett, a frumpy, friendless, and flinty spinster who lives with her cat. A formidable presence, Barbara is standoffish with colleagues and not one for students to trifle with (not that they'd dare). Cate Blanchett, also an Oscar nominee and winner of several critics society awards for her impassioned performance, costars as Sheba Hart, the new, overwhelmed art teacher who first becomes enthrall to Barbara after she steps in to help Sheba discipline unruly students. Barbara cultivates a friendship, and insinuates herself into Sheba's chaotic life, which includes her older husband (Bill Nighy), teenage daughter, and a son with Down's syndrome. Then, Barbara catches the reckless Sheba in a compromising position with a 15-year-old student (Andrew Simpson). Seizing her opportunity, the calculating Barbara does not turn her in. Rather, she wants to "help" her. "She's the one I've been waiting for," she writes in the journals she meticulously keeps, and which provide, in voiceover, her corrosive commentary. This all sounds very Fatal Attraction, but no boiling rabbits, please; we're British. Philip Glass's Oscar-nominated score accentuates the growing menace. Though there is little in ...

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