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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I don’t hate romance movies. Often referred to as “chick flicks”, many can be fun and enjoyable. Like any genre, there are good ones and there are stupid ones. I don’t subscribe to the societal stereotype that guys (or girls, for that matter) shouldn’t like a particular type of movie. Sure, many romance movies are formulaic, but as long as the characters are interesting and the story isn’t too clichéd, then I’ll probably enjoy it on some level.
2004’s The Notebook is an example of a film that has a lot of likeable elements and can be enjoyed by a wide audience. Anecdotally, I know many males who like (and some who love) this movie. I can see why. The characters are well-developed, the performances are solid, and the story has a unique twist to it. And, for the most part, I found The Notebook to be a pretty solid film.
Yet, I don’t like it.
Here is why: Rachel McAdams. Normally, I love Rachel McAdams, and she is probably one of my favorite actresses. Celebrity crush? Quite possibly. She does a good job in the movie and preforms her character well. Her character, on the other hand, is, well, not all that likable.
Here is my problem, and this really ruined the movie for me: McAdams and Ryan Gosling’s characters were teen lovers and were separated. They go their separate ways, and McAdams’s Allie eventually becomes engaged to another man (James Marsden, who constantly plays “the other guy” type roles). Now, of course, McAdams is going to reconnect with Gosling and ditch Marsden. That is obvious, because of the nature of the movie.
Many movies of this kind want the audience to root for the main couple, in this case McAdams/Gosling. We don’t want her to end up with Marsden. The problem I had was that the movie never gives us a reason to not want her to be with “the other guy”. Marsden’s character is presented as a completely stand-up, level-head gentleman. At every turn, he is supportive and respectful of McAdams. She wants to paint again; he tells her to go for it. She mysteriously decides to disappear for a week or so; he doesn’t question it. She admits she cheated on him with an old flame; he acts incredibly rational.
The movie gives us no reason to not like this guy. We don’t need it to be over-the-top where we don’t know why she was with the guy in the first place. Just one thing would have been enough (telling her “no” when she wants to paint for example). Instead, Marsden is a great guy who McAdams somewhat screws over. I’ve had this discussion with others, and they’ve suggested that, while it sucks for that guy, it’s more realistic. That is probably true, but I don’t want realistic when I go to see a movie like this.
It made McAdams’s character completely unlikable, and I became disinterested in their romance after that (granted, that was at the end of the movie, but still). Up to that point, I really liked the movie. However, when movie character assassinates one of its two leads whom I am supposed to root for, it is tough for me to get behind it.