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Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Notes on a Scandal movie poster.jpg

People trust me with their secrets. But who do I trust with mine? You, only you. The unreliable narrator is a very difficult trope to pull off in a novel – still more problematic in film. Yet Patrick Marber’s adaptation of Zoe Heller’s modern classic is effortlessly stylish, using the diary entries of deluded self-hating lonely Lesbian teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) to underline, contradict and stomp on what we are seeing, misleading everyone in the process. Her obsession with younger beautiful newcomer Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) at the secondary school where she works enmeshes them both in a terminal spiral of disaster when she sees her rival giving an underage boy (Andrew Simpson) a blow job in the art room…  Zoe Heller is a writer of supreme style – her column was one of the best things about The Sunday Times in the late 1990s, when that newspaper was still excellent. Her father Lukas was a great screenwriter – principally remembered as a key collaborator of Robert Aldrich on some of his best films. So the book she wrote seemed less like an accidental change in career and more like a premeditated move into something logically excellent but with even more impact than her columns, something for the ages. The genius of the novel is that everyone in it is deceitful, concealing some aspect of their actions, whether now or in the past, and the construction of the film’s screenplay by the brilliant playwright Marber both condenses and hones the narrative to a merciful 90 minutes (I hate long films – hate them! And the credits that go on for days!) so that it becomes an exemplar of screen storytelling. The performances by Dench, Blanchett and hapless hubby Bill Nighy as Sheba’s much older husband are simply stunning. I’d forgotten how brilliant this was. A must-see and one of the best films of the dreadful Noughties directed by theatre great Richard Eyre. Perfectly thrilling.  It takes courage to recognize the real as opposed to the convenient

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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