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Notes on a Scandal

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Jan
Notes on a Scandal
from Film Forum, 01/18/07Notes on a Scandal comes from a novel with a much longer title—What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal. And if the Academy doesn't give nominations to both Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett for their portrayals in this intense, twisted thriller, many moviegoers will say, What Were They Thinking?

Dench and Blanchett play Barbara and Sheba, two schoolteachers caught in a scandalous game of jealousy, lust, and deceit. When Barbara catches Sheba in an affair with a student, she tries to exploit the knowledge in order to make Sheba dependent on her. But when Sheba's husband (played by Bill Nighy in yet another memorable turn) begins to lose his patience with Barbara's self-centeredness, Barbara begins to lose her grip on the game, and things go from bad to worse.

Director Richard Eyre, who drew a career-best performance from Dench in Iris, just may have topped that here. But where Iris was a meaningful story about an enduring relationship, art, and compassion, Notes on a Scandal feels like a lurid tabloid-headline drama. No matter how great the performances might be—and they are Oscar-worthy—this story has little of value to offer us, except a glimpse of the emptiness waiting for those who view love as a power play.

Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) calls it "a lurid but skillful melodrama. … Richard Eyre directs … with Hitchcockian flair, while taking care not to glamorize the seamier plot elements. … The themes may rule out the film for many, but for those who approach the plot as the astute psychological thriller it is, they'll appreciate two actresses at the top of their game."

Mainstream critics are celebrating the performances, which may be virtue enough to win the film success at the box office and during awards season.

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