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  Publicity Stills of "Notes On A Scandal"
(Courtesy from 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Drama
Director: Richard Eyre
Starring: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, Phil Davis, Michael Maloney, Juno Temple, Max Lewis
RunTime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)

Opening Day: 15 February 2007


Synopsis :

When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins St. George's as the new art teacher, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) senses a kindred spirit. But Barbara is not the only one drawn to her. Sheba begins an illicit affair and Barbara becomes the keeper of her secret. NOTES ON A SCANDAL is a story of loneliness, loyalty, envy and love.

Movie Review:

Truth be told, Dame Judi Dench has always given this reviewer the creeps.

Be it her cold portrayal of M in the James Bond series, or her well-to-do widow role in Stephen Frear’s Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005), or her six-minute Oscar-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth in John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love (1998) – her quiet and weighty performances always feel cold and distant.

But this works to Dench’s advantage every time, and with her latest work, the 72-year-old shows us she is not one to be messed around with.

In her most daring role to date, Dench plays a history teacher who discovers a new teacher’s dirty little secret. Games of power and control are played in the unsettling background of the seemingly peaceful neighbourhood. What originally started as a friendship between two female teachers begins to evolve into an intense drama about obsession and intrigue.

Dench’s character is given the opportunity to provide some really sharply-written voiceovers which will make you laugh and send chills down your spines at the same time. It must be the magnetic force of her voice, but every line she says makes you stand on her side. This calmly powerful performance has earned the veteran a Best Actress nomination at the upcoming Oscars.

As if one potent performance is not enough, this film spoils movie fans with Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the victimized teacher who undergoes some really upsetting emotional upheaval. Her quiet suffering eventually culminates in an explosive scene which will make you sit up and watch. The Oscar winner is also nominated in the forthcoming Academy Awards in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Bill Nighy plays Blanchett’s husband with a polished front that blends in nicely with his two female leads.

The apt run time of 93 minutes is also welcome with the recent slew of overlong and pompous movies that are flocking the cinemas. The momentum is kept upbeat with Patrick Marber’s (Closer, Asylum) focused adaptation of Zoe Heller’s 2003 novel. Marber’s efforts are also recognized with a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination nod, giving film fans another reason to watch this movie.

The fourth nomination for this movie at the 79th Academy Awards is for Philip Glass’ (The Hours, The Illusionist) pressing music score, which works perfectly for the mood of the movie, with its evocative and rich treatment. It is definitely one of the recent rare underscores which complements the picture pertinently.

All these commendable aspects of the Richard Eyre-directed picture come together to disturbingly affecting effect, especially when Dench’s character shows her true colours. A member of the audience during the media preview showed how offended he was with the plot by hurling some unkind words, much to the surprise of this tolerating reviewer.

This means that the picture may not go down well with the mainstream movie crowd who is used to blockbusters with higher appeal factor. That is a pity, because this movie does have some thought-provoking messages about loneliness and companionship which deserves some attention.

The psychological thriller’s imminent tragedy will have you reflecting on how it mirrors our lives in the most disquieting ways.

Movie Rating:

(Powerful performances aside, this refined film takes a good look at human nature’s darker side)

Review by John Li

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