Sparks Notes: On depressing nursing homes and true love in ‘The Notebook’

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Voice-Over | 0 comments

“Sparks Notes” is one hot-blooded woman’s deep dive into the Nicholas Sparks film oeuvre. Each week, we’ll journey through another movie based on a Sparks novel. Why? Because I’m a lover of romance and the gratuitous use of extremely well-made male forearms, and honestly, I have the time. So, if you’re a Sparks fan, join me as we feel the love, mourn the dying, ogle all the beautiful people who moved to North Carolina, and cry … a lot. Sounds fun, right? Needless to say: SPOILERS ABOUND.


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We have arrived at The Notebook, loyal Sparks Notes readers. I’ll be up front: I’m not a fanatic about this movie. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it, and it’s a solid movie that all subsequent Sparks films try to imitate—but it’ll never be my go-to Sparks. I remain unmoved by the whole “if you’re a bird, I’m a bird” thing. I mean, who wants to be a bird? Yes, flying is cool, but so are opposable thumbs.

The Notebook | Released June 25, 2004

Directed by Nick Cassavetes | Screenplay by Jeremy Leven, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Starring Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Joan Allen, James Marsden


TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT-ISH: The Notebook is framed by James Garner reading a love story to Gena Rowlands, a woman with dementia and great scarf game who lives in his nursing home. I have no regrets in informing you up top that Garner and Rowlands are the present-day versions of Ryan Gosling’s Noah Calhoun and Rachel McAdams’ Allie Hamilton, and he is reading her the story of how they met in order to bring her out of the fog of her dementia.

Oh, does that sound depressing to you? Good, because it is. Old Noah sits and reads to his wife, who has no idea who he is, or any recollection of their beautiful life together, all for a few fleeting moments of clarity in which they dance to their song and cry together—until she snaps out of it and forgets him all over again. It is horrifying; please don’t make me relive it.

Okay, like Monica once said: FOR YOU, I WILL.

Noah and Allie meet at a carnival in the summer of 1940, where Noah basically stalks her and threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t go out with him. You think I’m exaggerating, but break those scenes down and IT IS ACCURATE. Oh, young love!

On their first date, Noah asks Allie to dance in the street and “I’ll Be Seeing You” plays in the background. It is totally the moment that every human person watching falls in love with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. So, okay, The Notebook, YOU GOT ME.


They fall in love immediately, per usual, and spend the summer shoving ice cream in each other’s faces, reading Walt Whitman, and discussing the details of bird reincarnation.

One night, Noah takes Allie to an abandoned plantation house to finally get it on (cobwebs and slavery—sexy!), but are interrupted when E from Entourage (Eric Connolly) pops in and informs his pals that Allie’s parents have the police looking for her. At home, her parents, played by Joan Allen and a cartoon oil tycoon/old-timey boxer, demand she break it off with her poor (economically, not emotionally) boyfriend. Joan Allen actually calls Noah trash at one point, which, like—what’s in your garbage can, lady?

Noah realizes he’ll never be good enough for Allie, they break up, and Allie leaves town. Noah writes her one letter every day for a year, but, hearing nothing, enlists in the army. JOAN ALLEN KEEPS THE LETTERS FROM ALLIE.

Allie meets Lon Hammond (James Marsden), who is AWESOME. He’s in a full-body cast when she meets him, yet still we’re all like, yeah, choose him! Funny, smart, heroic, handsome, and rich—Allie’s parents adore him, and the two get engaged.

Meanwhile, Noah returns from war and demolishes the abandoned sex house in order to build the dream house he promised Allie, in hopes of winning her back. Allie sees a photo of Noah and his gorgeous home in the newspaper and is moved so much, she has to go see him for some sex—er, closure.

It’s inevitable that these two will get back together. During a heated argument in the rain, Allie finds out about the letters Noah wrote. He declares that it was never over and it still isn’t and—oh my God, we’re all in love with each other now.

They go back to The House That Gosling’s Forearms Built and have a lot of sex. Allie wears her pearls the whole time, which, if we’re all being honest, is every true lady’s dream. Allie’s mom shows up and takes her daughter on a trip down memory lane about lost love, but Allie is still torn, because Lon is perfect but love is weird.

She confesses the situation to Lon, and he remains perfect and classy and makes it easy for her to follow her heart. Even though on the inside, he MUST be confused. We’re all confused, Lon. Seriously, she turns this down:


Anyway, Allie and Noah live happily ever after—until Allie gets Alzheimer’s and Noah spends all of his days in a nursing home reliving his past. Swoon!

In the end, Allie remembers Noah again and they talk about their love doing great things and then they die holding one another in their sleep. The greatest love story of our time, everybody.

AND WHAT DID WE LEARN ABOUT LOVE IN CLASS TODAY? Sometimes love makes you do crazy things, like decide to spend the rest of your life with an obsessed, taciturn carpenter who makes you feel things instead of that very charming war hero who organizes horse-riding excursions on the beach.

BUT HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL? Old Allie says, “This story makes me feel sad,” and I have to agree. I think we’re supposed to feel like love conquers all, but I just ended up feeling depressed about beautiful people getting old and dying in a nursing home. I will forever have the image of Rowlands sedated in a wheelchair in a room that is basically a farm of old comatose people burned in my brain. LOVE CANNOT CONQUER THAT, NOAH.


  • Are the two main characters from different worlds? Old Noah spells it out in voiceover: She’s city, he’s country. She’s rich, he’s poor. HOW WILL THEY EVER OVERCOME THIS, YOU GUYS? Oh, right—love.
  • Are there parents who don’t approve? The Hamiltons are the quintessential “Parents who disapprove of their daughter’s romance with a sexy street urchin.”
  • Is there time spent palling around in some type of water-based location? Fun fact: All of the romantic water scenes also include birds, this is technically known as “hydrated avian foreplay.”
  • Does someone die? Yeah, yeah, Allie and Noah die together. More important, Fin gets got in WWII. Fin is basically an extra from Oliver! So it’s not a huge loss.
  • Is there a wise older person? Old Noah pontificates on the power of love for two hours, but I think Mrs. Hamilton is pretty smart too. She does NOT marry Dan Scott from One Tree Hill AND she’s #TeamLon.
  • Do the men perform activities that require well-developed forearms? The Notebook brings us back to the basics, and uses forearms the way God intended: Holding a woman up whilst making out against a wall, and building your soul mate’s dream home in order to lure her away from her perfect Ken-doll fiancé.

Break out the butterfly tattoos, because next week we dive into my favorite of the Sparks collection: A Walk to Remember. Wait, I just started crying. This should be great and not at all embarrassing!

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