I got the chance to see Fox Searchlight's NOTES ON A SCANDAL last night at a preview screening. First, a note on the screening itself. If you ever get the chance to screen a movie in a private screening room at a studio or entertainment business (last night it was courtesy of Dolby), do it. All of the screening rooms at Paramount (THE best), Disney, the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild and now Dolby that I have experienced are truly great theaters. The only mainstream theater that I have experienced that rivals them is the Village Theater in Westwood.
Now, back to the movie.
I didn't think I was going to regard it as much, given that I'm generally not into woman-on-woman stories. But the flick is quite something. The storyline involves a kind of a love triangle between Cate Blanchett's character Sheba, Judi Dench's Barbara, and newcomer Andrew Simpson, who plays Steven Connolly. It seems 15-year-old Connolly has seduced Sheba, his teacher and the object of Barbara's affection; And when possessive Barbara finds out, drama ensues.
It's a rather riveting when-she-gonna-spill-the-beans storyline with a thread of camp running through it, courtesy of a snappy script and some lovely delivery by Dench. It's also a fascinating study of unconventional relationships, leaving me wondering what is and isn't OK, and who can and cannot be romantically invovled with one another?
It should be no surprise, given the two matriarchs of the cast, that the performances are very strong. I even found myself believing that young Connolly's advances toward his teacher were genuine and, at the same time, very innocent.
A passing note on the 15-year-old. When the movie was shot, Simpson was 17. I'm not generally attracted to teenagers, but he is quite easy on the eyes. So, while Sheba's affair with 15-year-old Connolly is quite illegal, the audience's attraction to 17-year-old Simpson is (if you're OK with looking at an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog) quite all right.
The best thing about the movie might be its length. I've seen so many movies in the last couple of years that dragged and dragged. In just 98 minutes, NOTES ON A SCANDAL gets you in and gets you out in just the right time.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Especially in light of most of the crap that was out this year, this is a small, refreshing film that simply aspires to be what is: A study of unconventional relationships. 7 out of 10.