Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Notes on a Scandal image

Patrick Marber shovels pages of voiceover into Judi Dench’s lap and somehow she makes them sound brilliant and scabrous. Trouble sets in when the schoolmarmish Barbara (Dench) first goes to dine with the free-spirited Sheba (Cate Blanchett), as director Richard Eyre (Stage Beauty) aligns the performances in such an awkward clash of personalities that it’s hard to imagine any kind of friendship would bloom, even the twisted, one-sided one seen here. The reliable ice queen Blanchett can’t come up with a schoolboy-shagging character that makes any sense and the cascading score by Philip Glass ratchets up the sense of lurid melodrama far beyond what’s supported in the story. (I actually thought to myself, “Somebody better get a knife in the back before this thing is over.”) Eyre doesn’t contribute a lot in the way of cinematic style beyond putting Chris Menges behind the camera and letting him do his thing, and the character relationships generally feel arbitrary. The climax arrives so quickly that I was still waiting for the final act to begin when the film’s obvious coda hit the screen. And yet there is something compelling about the proceedings — judging from the gales of tittering laughter originating from the last few rows of my press screening, this could have an exceptionally long shelf life as a camp classic, something I don’t think the filmmakers were striving for. C+

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