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Jan 11, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Notes on a Scandal

You wouldn't think that a film about adultery, statutory rape, a broken marriage, a fatal attraction, and an elderly, borderline stalker lesbian would be a funny film. But you'd be wrong.

Notes on a Scandal
, a London-based drama starring Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, about a pair of teachers whose lives become deeply intertwined, is a hilarious film. Though I don't think it's really meant to be humorous, it's not your usual unintentional comedy (of the Karate Kid or Roadhouse variety) - in other words, it's not embarassing in its comedy. The comedy comes from the realness, the scariness of Dench's desperate character and the depth's that she will go to in order to earn the friendship/companionship of Blanchett's alluring "Sheba" (note: actual character name).

Don't get me wrong - the film is quite good, and more than sufficiently dramatic at times. It was obviously made by deft filmmakers - it's only real drawback is a story that is practically cliched in Hollywood - bits and pieces have more or less been lifted from a number of films, including Single White Female, Fatal Attraction, The Crush, etc. We've seen Dench's character before.

At the same time, you could say we've never quite seen a character quite like this, or a presentation like this. One of the more interesting things of Scandal is that it is told in large part from the perspective of Dench's volatile character. This twist on the classic stalker story
invigorates the film. Also invigorating is the score by Phillip Glass - with this and The Illusionist on his recent resume, Glass is cementing his status as a premier film scorer, adding to the drama at hand without being overbearing.

As you might expect, Dench owns the screen, though Blanchett is a formidable foe and a more than competent peer. In addition to the rarity of the film's perspective, even rarer is the drama with two strong female leads. (Bill Nighy, Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and newcomer Andrew Simpson the only real male characters in the film.) How refreshing! Take note, Hollywood - with Scandal and the recently released Volver, that's two European-based dramas with females at their centers and males nearly absent. Women don't need to be relegated to romantic comedies or supporting parts to produce good films. Duh.

81 out of 100

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