Secrets Can Be Seductive

27 Jan

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve gone and updated my top 10 list for last year because Notes on a Scandal surely deserves a place there.

And I’ll go one step further and say that Judi Dench deserves the Oscar for her performance here more than Helen Mirren does for her work in The Queen.

Dench is as scary an on-screen villain as there’s been in the movies this year, and her performance is mesmerizing. It’s hard to imagine that she went home every night and was a normal person. In the movie, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

To backtrack a bit, Notes tells the story of Barbara (Dench), a spinster history teacher who falls for her younger, more modern coworker, Sheba (Cate Blanchett, also very good).

Sheba is in an unhappy marriage, and gets involved with one of her students — a secret that Barbara discovers and holds over Sheba’s head in order to endear Sheba to her.

Basically, take Fatal Attraction, remove the sex between the two leads, add a gay subtext, and you’ll almost have the plot of this movie.

As I say, the acting is impressive, and the film itself is quite compelling.

If I had any problem with it, it’s Philip Glass’ score, which is too heavy-handed and intrusive. His music is clearly meant to ratchet up the intensity and the drama, but really, Dench’s performance does that all on its own.

And because there’s so much of the music, that’s why I’m only going to give Notes an A–.

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