Entries Comments

Movie Review: Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal
Directed by Richard Eyre
Written by Patrick Marber based on the novel What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
Fox Searchlight

Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both played Queen Elizabeth I in 1998, in Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth, respectively.  They both were nominated, Dench winning in the supporting actress category while Blanchett lost to Dench’s co-star Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead actress category.  Blanchett later got hers for The Aviator.  They are two of the most respected actresses going, and to think that they would be in the same movie, potentially squaring off against one another, is quite frankly delicious.

In this rather trashy tale with a superior pedigree, Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) is a new teacher at a school where Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) has entrenched herself as the Grande Dame of the institution, the crotchety old woman everyone, faculty included, fear.  Barbara develops an infatuation for the younger woman, but it’s not the psychosexual kind as much as it’s the lonely longing for a companion, or equal.  They become somewhat friends.

Sheba is married to Richard (Bill Nighy), and has a teenage daughter (Juno Temple) and a mentally challenged son (Max Lewis).  But it’s obvious she’s a pretty bored, if caring, wife and mother, longing for excitement.  She begins an affair with a fifteen-year-old student named Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), one that Barbara discovers and uses to her advantage, hoping the hint of blackmail might keep Sheba in line with their friendship.  Being the movie it is, there’s no way everything’s going to be normal even when it lays down the ground rules.

Dench has the meatier character; she’s our narrator and has some blunt, very funny observations as she writes in her diary (provided in whole or in part, no doubt, by Marber, who wrote the play and screenplay for Closer).  So, she completely runs away with the film, even though the formidable Blanchett does her part.  And allowing an actress like Dench to steal everything is a generous contribution to the movie.

Of course, as a premise, this movie’s plot is pretty thin, so on the whole it’s an OK movie made better just by watching masters onscreen do their thing.  It’s worth a look just for that. 

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.