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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Notes on a Scandal (2006)


Luckiest freakin’ student ever!

When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins St George’s as the new art teacher, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) senses a kindred spirit. But Barbara is not the only one drawn to her. Sheba begins an illicit affair and Barbara becomes the keeper of her secret.

Honestly, what could would ever want to pass up on a chance to sleep with their teacher, especially if that teacher was Cate Blanchett?!? I mean come on people, let’s be real here.

Going right into this flick, I was expecting something that was going to be pretty generic with a good cast to elevate it all. However, aside from the cast, it’s also the writing that really works here and keeps everything tight, just when it starts to loosen up a bit. The film starts off with a very normal pace with a chronicle of these two ladies becoming “friends”, but then when the affair is caught by Barb, all hell breaks loose and we have ourselves a psychological thriller that didn’t really stop moving. May get a tad predictable at times, but you’re able to get past that thanks to everything else that’s going on

Everything is very dark and eerie in this flick because it touches on a lot of topics like pedophilia, adultery, and lesbianism but it still somehow maintains a very dry sense of wit that made me laugh at times. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is a dark comedy, but I will say that it catches you off guard sometimes by how witty it can be, but you still can’t get past the fact that this flick continues to go deeper, deeper, and deeper into its story until there’s barely anything left in it. A very fine script and the direction from Richard Eyre, may not be anything special but at least he isn’t trying to get involved with the story too much. He just lets it play-out like it should.

My main problem with this flick was that the whole reasoning as to how this affair started in the first place seemed a bit unbelievable. First of all, Sheba does not seem like the type of older gal that would develop a school girl crush on a boy, and then to start shacking the high hoots with him either. It seemed like Sheba herself, was a little too intelligent and mature for this type of behavior but then again, I can’t say this too much because certain shit like this does happen in real-life. Pissed that it doesn’t happen at my school but teacher-student banging does go down none the less.

What went along with this problem was that the reasoning Sheba gave as to why she wanted this kid in the first place, was because she felt lonely with her husband, who’s 20 years older than her, and the family she had to raise with him. Yeah I get this, but the film barely shows us any of these problems ever happening until later on in the flick when her mind starts to get a little crazier from all of the constant paranoia of being found-out. Maybe if they touched up on this a bit more, I would have been able to believe it all but it came off as a bit of a stretch or a lame excuse for this chick wanting to bone a younger kid. It also didn’t help that the kid was a terrible actor, and I swore to God that if he said the word “miss” in his fake-ass Irish accent, I was going to punch the screen hoping to get a piece of him too. Dreams never do come true!

However, all of those problems are almost forgotten about whenever I think about the performances here from the trio of leads here. Judi Dench is very unglamorous as Barbara because she’s sad, lonely, old, looking for love, but also very, very, very creepy deep-down inside. She’s pretty much playing a crotchety old hag that has a lot more heart and warmth to her that makes you feel some sympathy for her character but then you also start to feel like you can’t trust this chick and neither can any other character in this flick either. Dench definitely takes over the screen every time she gets a chance to, and shows just how creepy of a character she can be.

Cate Blanchett is also a revelation as Sheba, one of her more unsympathetic character roles. Blanchett is constantly on fire with this character because she’s sad, lonely, and in need of love, but in a very different way. Unlike Barbara, Sheba is a character that you can trust in what she’s going to do next and even though Dench gets a lot of crazy material t0 work with, Blanchett is still allowed to let loose as well especially when it’s on each other. I don’t know what it was here, but there’s just something so awesome and perfect about watching two respected actresses like Blanchett and Dench go all-out on each other in a cat fight that features barely any physicality; all verbal baby.You can’t also forget to mention the always perfect, Bill Nighy as Sheba’s husband. Nighy almost steals every scene he has on-screen with each of these two chickies, but it’s by the end when all of the emotions of this character start to pour out is when you realize that this character has a lot more to him than you would expect. After seeing him and Dench try their hardest to be happy and make love in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I think it’s pretty safe to say that they have both regained my respect for them.

Consensus: Notes on a Scandal may have problems with believablity, but where it succeeds in is perfect performances from its cast, an script that continues to go farther down into what it’s trying to explore, and a plot that may be generic and simple at times, ends up being very unpredictable and thrilling.

8/10=Matinee!!

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5 responses to “Notes on a Scandal (2006)

  1. Chip Lary November 5, 2012 at 12:03 am

    For what it’s worth: I just saw the affair with the student as a maguffin to drive the rest of the movie.

    Dench really sold me on this movie. It’s one of the best portrayals of just how a person can realistically talk themselves into believing something that seems crazy that I’ve ever seen.

  2. colincarman November 7, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Great film w/ great performances; love the husband yelling: “You’re not young!” at Blanchett. Fascinating stuff about age, education, and desire.

  3. Lady Kell of Kincavel November 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    This is one of those rare occasions where the film is most definitely better than the book. The film managed to wring a lot more tension out of the relationship between Sheba and Barbara, whereas the book was just a bit dull.

  4. vinnieh October 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Excellent post, this film contains such great performances from two of my favourite actresses.

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