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first watch

I Finally Watched The Notebook, and I Have Some Thoughts

We all have our cinematic blind spots, and until yesterday, The Notebook was one of mine. To a certain extent, I think it was a forgivable one: This movie has become mandatory viewing for a lot of young women (which means a lot of their boyfriends have seen it as well), but I'm a 34-year-old gay dude — it eluded me, you know? Still, I've watched so many movies over the last decade, like The Vow or The Fault in Our Stars, that were either influenced by The Notebook or were green-lit in some part due to its success; it seemed only fair, then, to give the Ryan Gosling/Rachel McAdams romantic drama its proper due.

Last night, on the eve of the movie's tenth anniversary, I finally watched The Notebook for the first time. It was good, mostly! I think I get it. It's a very handsomely made, throwback love story where the guy says he'll love the girl until the end of time and Really Means It, and the movie remixes Titanic in a whole lot of clever ways: There's a rich girl who wears big hats and has a snooty mom, a poor boy with blond bangs who loves her, a potent scene of old people cuddling in a bed, and flash-forward bookends that are destined to pull tears. But now that I've finally caught up to what you guys have been discussing for the last ten years, will you let me ask some questions and share some thoughts? There are 16 things about The Notebook that have stuck with me since I've seen it, and I want to know what you think about them, too.

- Why do so many of our movie love stories begin with the male lead leveling an obsessive stare at our clearly uncomfortable heroine? It happens in The Notebook, it happens in Twilight, and it happens in The Fault in Our Stars. Is this a new romantic trope? "I want a guy who will love me for the rest of my life and really creep me out at first."

- On that note, the way Allie repeatedly insists that she doesn't want to go out with him and the way an unrepentant Noah threatens her and says "I'm not gonna ask you again" is just a litttttttle bit "Blurred Lines," no?

- Obviously, Ryan Gosling got the biggest career jolt from this movie, but I feel like Rachel McAdams is unusually underrated in it; she's so spontaneous and joyful in every scene. Gosling is not always a generous performer with his scene partners, but you can really feel him stepping outside his comfort zone with McAdams, because while he's talking, she'll provoke him by laughing or rolling her eyes at completely random moments. [Editor's Note: It's because they're in lovvvvve! They're so in love, look at them! Gah, why can't they get back together.] You can't say this about most actresses top-lining Nicholas Sparks romantic dramas, but she's utterly alive in this role.

- Gosling's good, too, and now I guess I understand why heterosexual women are so adamant about him in a way they aren't about, like, Jake Gyllenhaal. This movie was important to them!

- Do we want to talk about Ryan Gosling's old nose in this movie? I'm just asking you, because I'm not going to say a word about it.

- I will say this, though: Throughout this movie, Noah's handwriting is impeccable.

- "If you're a bird, I'm a bird." Was this a thing? I'm vaguely aware that this might have been a thing. It's like the "If you jump, I jump" of The Notebook, right? I love that the most iconic line from The Notebook sounds like something you might say in an improv class.

- I also like how in the scene where Allie and Noah are about to make love for the first time in an abandoned, dusty spider-building, they get undressed so far apart, like an unhappily married rich couple sitting at opposite ends of a long dining table. I must say, though, that their reactions to seeing each other's uncovered junk are priceless.

- Can we talk about Allie's dad in the movie? I was expecting him to be played by, like, Dylan Baker or somebody, not a fucking Mario Brother dressed up like Hugh Hefner. What was up with that mustache and his whole vibe? It was so weird! (Side note: I was excited to discuss the dad today because surely everyone has spent the last ten years wondering why that character was so odd, but then I mentioned him to one of my female co-workers who has seen this movie several times, and she IM'd me: "i have zero memory of the dad. what is wrong with you?" Ryan Gosling–related tunnel vision is a powerful thing!)

- Boy, they killed off E right as that war began. He just got there!

- Guys, I was just thrilled when James Marsden showed up as the Other Love Interest. It's a little funny, because our narrator muses that "Allie was surprised by how fast she fell in love with him," and it's like, Bitch, are you not paying attention to what's in this getting-to-know-you montage right now? Because all I see is James Marsden in an officer's uniform, James Marsden in a tux, and James Marsden wearing a tan turtleneck while riding a horse on the beach. If Allie was that surprised to fall in love with him, I was expecting rapid-onset blindness as a third-act twist.

- Ryan Gosling with the hair and the beard and the rain? It's a good look.

- I kind of expected more conflict at the end? Allie goes off to see Noah for the first time since they were teenagers, and after they bone and confess their love for one another, you kind of expect that everyone in their lives will conspire to keep these lovebirds apart. But no one does! Literally every character, from Noah's mistress to Allie's mother and fiancé, tells them, "You guys should really get together." And then they do, and that's the end of their love story. Nobody put up any sort of fight? I was anticipating some real Thorn Birds–level, forbidden-love shit, but in the end, these lovers weren't all that star-crossed.

- Also, the main knock against choosing Ryan Gosling's character was that he's poor, but at the end of the movie, he's a heterosexual 24-year-old who wears a lot of clean Henleys and owns beautiful beachfront property. I don't think this was a hard choice.

- I used to work at a site that had a recurring feature called "My Favorite Scene," where we'd ask celebrities to discuss the movie scenes they loved best. The big joke among us was that a solid 70 percent of young actresses always gravitated to The Notebook, and the scene they tended to pick was, "The whole movie, I guess."

- I asked my boyfriend if he wanted to watch the movie with me and he replied, "I've already seen it and it's stupid," then went into the other room. Later, he came out, watched the last 15 minutes of the movie, and bawled.

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson and Photo by New Line Cinema