Notes on a Scandal (2006)  » Movies  »
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  • I think however it is a very good, thought-provoking movie
  • As the story goes along and I saw that Barbara had quite a few of these diaries I found myself wondering if Barbara kept one book for each school year when she taught or for each relationship she had
  • Most of his experience seems to be in stage work and television, but he did an excellent job with Notes on a Scandal

    • by tfedge
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      Notes on a Scandal” (2006) is a BBC Films movie, filmed on locations throughout England in English. The color movie lasts 92 minutes and is based on the novel by Zoe Heller. A tagline for the movie is “One Woman’s Mistake is Another’s Opportunity.” Another tagline is “loneliness can turn one into a monster.” Clearly “Notes on a Scandal” is not a feel-good date movie. I think however it is a very good, thought-provoking movie. I think if the movie were played more sinisterly and in black and white it could be a first-rate horror movie. I can just imagine Bette Davis playing the role Judi Dench plays.

      When the movie opens Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) has just started teaching art at a comprehensive school in London. A comprehensive school is similar to a public school in the United States. Hart is an artist and is a sensitive woman. As might be expected she has difficulty dealing with the students’ misbehavior. Judi Dench plays Barbara Covett, an experienced teacher who is within a few years of retirement. She controls the students because they fear her. Barbara does not appear to have ever been married.

      One day two boys are fighting in the school Sheba vainly tries to separate them. When Barbara takes control and ends the fight Sheba is grateful. The two become friends. As their friendship develops Barbara becomes increasingly possessive. When she learns that


      Sheba is having an affair with a student Barbara uses her knowledge to increase her hold on Sheba. When Sheba tries to drawback from Barbara, Barbara becomes angry and seeks revenge.

      The title comes from Barbara’s habit of keeping a diary. In it she records what happens to her and Sheba. As the story goes along and I saw that Barbara had quite a few of these diaries I found myself wondering if Barbara kept one book for each school year when she taught or for each relationship she had. I was not certain if Barbara was a lesbian or just a deeply controlling person. In any case she had a predatory personality that was hidden behind her formal, professional façade.

      I think Judi Dench is one of the four or five best English actress working today. In her generation she is challenged only by Maggie Smith and Vanessa Redgrave. She has taken the traditional road for English actresses. She has appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company, done theatre on both sides of the Atlantic, starred in two highly successful television series (”A Fine Romance” and “As Time Goes By”), and starred in a wide variety of movies. Dench has been nominated for six Academy Awards winning for “Shakespeare in Love.” She was nominated for her role in “Notes on a Scandal, ” but lost to Helen Mirren’s performance in “The Queen.” She has nominated for ...


      • and won a number of BAFTA, the British equivalent of the Oscar. In recent years she has become famous as M in several James Bond movies.

        Cate Blanchett is a talented younger actress from Australia (doesn’t the United States produce actors any more?). She won a Best Actress Oscar for “The Aviator” (2004) and was nominated for a Best Actress for “Elizabeth” (1998) but lost to Gwyneth Paltrow for “Shakespeare in Love.” Her performance in “Notes on a Scandal” garnered another Best Actress nomination where she lost to Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls.” One of my favorite roles for her was from “The Missing” (2003) the very unusual western moving that costarred Tommy Lee Jones and was directed by Ron Howard.

        Richard Eyre directed “Notes on a Scandal.” Most of his experience seems to be in stage work and television, but he did an excellent job with “Notes on a Scandal”. He also directed Judi Dench in “Iris” (2001)

        Besides the Oscar nominations for Dench and Blanchett, “Notes on a Scandal” received a nomination for Patrick Marber for Best Adapted Screenplay. Philip Glass received a nomination for Best Original Score. Frankly I don’t remember the music, a sign that I take as indicating a good score since the movie never seemed to lack a score but moved along nicely, something that indicates to me that it’s a good score.

        Among my favorite moments are early in

        the movie Barbara describes the students as they enter the building, “here come the local pubescent proles. The future plumbers, shop assistants, and doubtless the odd terrorist too. In the old days, we confiscated cigarettes and wank mags. Now it’s knives and crack cocaine. And they call it progress.” Later in the movie, while expressing anger at her mother, adolesecent Polly Hart says, “Your boyfriend is younger than my boyfriend!”

        Similar movies that come to mind for me are “To Sir with Love” (1967)starring Sidney Poitier it lacks the sinister quality of “Notes on a Scandal,” but takes place in a similar London secondary school. I think the movie is mostly about loneliness and an unusual, pathological reaction to that loneliness. Because of this “Notes on a Scandal” reminds me of “Taxi Driver” (1976). The tone is different, but the impact of loneliness on a person is the same. Another movie that deals with stalking and has a sinister tinge to it is Brian de Palma’s “Dressed to Kill” (1980) starring Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson. And of course who can forget “Play Misty for Me” (1971) starring Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walter (see my Review Stream review at: http://www.reviewstream.com/reviews/?p=24747).

        I enjoyed watching “Notes on a Scandal.” I wonder if it might not have been better if there were more tension and suspense. As it is I give “Notes on a Scandal” an 87% or a B+.




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