As a Millennial, I grew up considering The Notebook as being synonymous with "girls' night movie." Imagine my surprise when my my pal Melinda, who is Gen X, told me she’d never seen it! Since it is one of the most rented DVDs in the history of DVD Netflix (it was the top rented movie of 2004), Melinda was curious to find out what all the fuss was about.
Fortuitously, our local Alamo Drafthouse was showing it for "girlie night" just a week after we talked about it, so we went to watch it together.
I love gifs, and Melinda’s got a pretty mean gif game herself, so enjoy this cross-generational list of thoughts we had while watching The Notebook (and then add it to your queue)!
—Annie Jung, Content and Community Manager, DVD Netflix
ANNIE: Omg, baby Gosling. This is weird to see now because he looks so young here, but when the movie came out, I was in middle school and we all considered him a "cute grownup."
MELINDA: Is he even legal to date? I liked those “hey girl” posts though. I feel like I’m committing a crime by objectifying him.
ANNIE: I’m all for gazing up at the night sky and stars together, but on the actual road? Trying too hard to be quirky. Dirty and dangerous. And hard. And gravelly. And a nuisance to any cars that come by. #darnkids
MELINDA: I hated this scene. What kind of potential love interest lies on a dirty street? To prove what? It was weird.
ANNIE: That is some beautiful handwriting. Ignore the fact that I'm lowkey tearing up. Also, I'm touched on some level that her mother did keep the letters. Hid them, yes, but didn't burn them or throw them away, even after all these years. I wonder when she would've, if ever, shown them to Allie if this whole cheating thing hadn't been a catalyst.
MELINDA: That was written by a woman on the props team. But man, the delivery is good—dropping the g’s and all, just like a real Southern boy. Woody Harrelson just did the same trick on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, crushing me with a voice-over and words that no man would ever write. Men should always hire women to write love letters. See also: Roxanne, with Steve Martin.
ANNIE: Okay, I never liked this scene. “Say you’re a bird; say it!” Too cutesy.
MELINDA: Kids are so cute. Kinda like baby pandas. I don’t mind. Man does Ryan Gosling look like he’s in high school, or what?
ANNIE: This scene was the epitome of undying passion/romance for teenage girls of the 2000s. Although, in retrospect, this guy really didn’t give up after the first 10, 50, or even 100 unanswered letters? A bit too persistent if this were real life. But scene this really sealed the deal for making the girls of my generation dream of someday experiencing an epic, passionate kiss in the pouring rain.
MELINDA: Yeah, he’s kind of a stalker. But really, all our favorite movies are problematic (just sayin’). However, I am always and forever a sucker for a man who can row a boat. But by the way, why couldn’t she ever write to HIM?
ANNIE: This move confused and impressed and thrilled the heck out of adolescent me when I saw this. How did their faces not crash in a collision of pain? How did they coordinate their lips to meet? How did he pick her up so effortlessly? Is she wearing appropriate underpants beneath that? The mysteries of kissing (especially so vigorously as in this scene) baffled and intrigued mid-2000s me.
MELINDA: Who cares? It’s love, at least movie love, carefully staged and rehearsed. And still cool. The older I get, the less I want to analyze and just BELIEVE.
ANNIE: This also mystified me. And still does. I get that there are sparks and that there's the excitement of making up after clashing, and they rile each other up, but rarely agreeing on anything and always bickering? Didn't seem too great.
MELINDA: It makes the making up part so much more interesting. ;)
ANNIE: And this! They actually fought, like she would hit and slap him. Not okay.
MELINDA: Okay, from Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind to Cher in Moonstruck, these are classic moments! Allie had an opinion, a voice, and she spoke her mind. Disagreeing and arguing it through, then working it out is EXACTLY how you build that bond that accomplishes the relationship goals. As my man says, “the secret to staying married, is staying married."
ANNIE: Can we have a quick moment of appreciation for Lon in this film? Movies usually make it super easy—this is the guy you root for, this is the guy you boo at. But James Marsden’s character here was a stellar guy. He’s cheeky enough to ask her on a date while she’s nursing him and he’s in a cocoon of bandages. And then he shows up, smooth as hell and looking extremely fine in his uniform to politely but dashingly ask, “How’s about that date, miss?” And he’s good to her! He really loved her, and she loved him, too. When she visits his office to tell him she hasn’t painted in a while and she needs to “get away” to take care of a few things, he tells her to paint again and supports her decision to go, encouraging her to take her time. And he’s totally understanding after finding out Allie cheats on him. Hurt? Of course! But he doesn’t shout or rage; he just forgives her. “The way I see it, I got three choices. One, I could shoot him. Two, I could kick the crap out of him. Or three, I leave you. But all of that’s no good, you see, ‘cause none of those options give me you. And in spite of everything… I love you… I meant what I said when I gave you that ring.”
MELINDA: You’re right. So many movies make it so obvious who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. This movie actually puts the woman’s choice between two decent people. I don’t know why people hate on it so much!
MELINDA: The moment she walked into the room he had made for her filled with art supplies, I lost it. That is some faith, some serious faith. Also, as a diehard introvert, I want an art room NOW. And that awful scene on the street near the beginning? It was the setup for this scene and thus, in hindsight, it’s perfect. “You asked me what I love to do for me. I like to paint. With a brush in my hand, the world just gets kinda quiet.” She never mentions it again until she says to Lon, “I don’t paint anymore.” There’s the tip-off. I love when movies set up the stakes in such a powerful way and it pays off so well.
ANNIE: This is a really sweet scene. That’s a lot of time, effort, and thought on his part, quietly presented. You can take a girl out for a flashy, expensive night out with all the bells and whistles, but this was a humble gesture that showed he knew her and remembered something that was important to her—which made it important to him.
ANNIE: Ahhh, yes, this scene was extremely moving. It didn’t really affect me that much when I was 11 because it was like, “Nooo, why are you not insisting she be with you?” But now I really appreciate that he wanted her to be truly happy and do what was right for her—not what society expected, not what she thought was best to avoid conflict. He asked her to think about and admit what she, Allie, wanted. Even if it meant that she chose someone else. He really wanted her to wake up and make a decision about her life for herself.
MELINDA: AGREED. This is the definition of true love. This is the most important scene in the movie. This is what won me over. I LOVED that he didn’t demand or manipulate her. He made HER choose. He showed his hand, was truly vulnerable. But after that he left it to her. Ahead of his time. And for the record I like his beard better than his baby face in this movie.
ANNIE: "I read to her and she remembers." And she remembered. 😭
MELINDA: Too hard to watch. Family members with Alzheimer’s. It’s exactly like this.
ANNIE: *is blinking furiously—not furiously enough—tears stream down face*
MELINDA: This hurts to watch. It’s too real. *snorts loudly in hankie, practically sobbing eyes out in movie theatre*
ANNIE: After the movie (and after wiping all our tears away), we talked about the movie together and realized this was a great example of how being from different generations means we can approach a movie differently, yet still find commonality in what we love—and don’t love—about it. Movies are still one of the things that unites us all.
Have you seen The Notebook? What generation are you in? What do you love or hate about it? Let us know in the comments, or on social media. And be sure to check out more of the top rented DVDs at Netflix as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary.