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Notes on a Scandal

Art House & International movie directed by Richard Eyre

< read all 9 reviews

"People trust me with their secrets. But who do I trust with mine?"

  • Nov 2, 2007
Rating:
+4
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 about her obvious "fey" attitudes and appearance, but later rushes to her defense when the young woman becomes overwhelmed in trying to stop a playground fight. Striking up a friendship, Barbara is invited into Sheba's family home, and begins to develop a strong attachment.

But when Barbara catches Sheba in a compromising position with one of her 15-year-old students (Andrew Simpson), the friendship shatters. Barbara decides this is the perfect way to keep a firm hold on Sheba's loyalty: "There was a magnificent opportunity here. With stealth, I might secure the prize long-term, forever in my debt. I could gain everything by doing nothing". But it's not long until Barbara leaks the information to a fellow teacher and Sheba is arrested by the authorities. With nowhere else to go, Sheba is invited to stay with Barbara, but when she accidentally uncovers Barbara's poison-fuelled diaries, the situation becomes explosive...

NOTES ON A SCANDAL is a riveting movie experience, capped off by the virtuoso performances of Blanchett and Dench, who both invest their characters with untold pathos and depth. Judi Dench in particular impresses in one of her rare turns as the villain. The character of Barbara, a closeted lesbian with shrewd opinions of all and sundry, is a marvel to watch, yet there is still something endearing and sympathetic to make her appealing to an audience. Director Richard Eyre must be applauded for cultivating such distinct performances from his leading ladies.

The cast also features Bill Nighy, Tom Georgeson, Joanna Scanlan, Julia McKenzie, Syreeta Kumar, Anne-Marie Duff, Juno Temple and Alice Bird. The DVD includes featurettes "The Story of Two Obsessions" & "Behind the Scandal", "In Character with Cate Blanchett", audio commentary with Richard Eyre, and the trailer.

Highly-recommended.

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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 . May 14, 2007
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 …
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 …
About the reviewer
Byron Kolln ()
Ranked #55
Byron has been actively involved in theatre since the age of 12. He has had a great variety of roles (both on-stage and off). In addition he has hosted the long-running "Show Business" programme … more
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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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