Notes on a Scandal
Summer 2007 Summer Films series
Sunday, June 10, 2007 at 8:00pm
Directed by Richard Eyre
Starring Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Nighy
Rated 14A ·
Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett face off with searing performances in this riveting tale of obsession and desire. Based on the novel by Zoe Heller, Notes on a Scandal is the story of Barbara Covett (Dench, Casino Royale), a hard-nosed spinster schoolteacher, and her poisonous friendship with fellow teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett, Babel). When the young and beautiful Sheba shows up as the new art instructor, everyone is charmed by her, including the embittered Barbara. Barbara is thrilled when her lonely life is shaken up by Sheba’s overtures of friendship, as Sheba invites her to share in family dinners, and opens up to her about her marital troubles and personal longing.
Barbara narrates her own feelings of longing to us from her meticulous diaries, and it becomes increasingly clear that her take on the friendship is uncomfortably intense, if not borderline delusional. Things reach a fever pitch when Barbara happens upon Sheba dallying in the art room with a 15-year-old student. She tells Sheba that she must end the affair at once, but decides not to report her to the school, and instead, to use her knowledge of the indiscretion to draw Sheba closer to her, and put her in her debt. But when Barbara’s demands on Sheba become too high, things soon unravel, setting off a chain of events that will leave viewers chewing their nails to the quick, but unable to tear their eyes away.
Both Blanchett and Dench are dazzling to watch as they deftly handle the barbed wit of Patrick Marber’s screenplay. Directed by Richard Eyre of the Northern Theatre of London, and with a score by Philip Glass, Notes on a Scandal takes what could serve as mere tabloid fodder and plays it out on the level of Shakespearean tragedy.