A veteran high school teacher befriends a younger art teacher, who is having an affair with one of her 15-year-old students. However, her intentions with this new "friend" also go well beyond platonic friendship.
The bitter, cynical and lonely Barbara Covett is a tough and conservative teacher, near to retirement, who is loathed by her colleagues and students. In the loneliness of her apartment, she spends her spare time writing her journal, taking care of her old cat Portia and missing her special friend Jennifer Dodd. When Sheba Hart joins the high-school as the new art teacher, Barbara dedicates her attention to the newcomer, writing sharp and unpleasant comments about her behavior and clothes. When Barbara helps Sheba in a difficult situation with two students, the grateful Sheba invites her to have lunch with her family. Sheba introduces her husband and former professor Richard Hart, who is about twenty years older than she; her rebellious teenager daughter Polly; and her son Ben that has Down's Syndrome. Barbara becomes close to Sheba, but when she accidentally discovers that Sheba is having an affair with the fifteen year-old student Steven Connolly, Barbara sees the chance to ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jason Reitman read the script and wanted to direct it. He called up the producers on the phone with the intention of getting the job. The producers answered: "We are in editing right now, but I hope you'll like the film when it comes out." See more »
When Brian and Barbara are sitting at her table, Barbara's cigarette has an inconsistent length. See more »
[voiceover of Barbara writing in her diary]
People trust me with their secrets. But who do I trust with mine? You, only you.
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Watching the emotionally intense black comedy, "Notes on a Scandal," you, too, may feel like its main character, Barbara, who reflects in one of her many voice-overs, "The opera has begun and I have a front-row seat." Directed by Richard Eyre ("Iris," "Stage Beauty" and the exceptional TV version of "Suddenly, Last Summer" with Maggie Smith and Natasha Richardson), "Notes" bravely wades into modern-day Grand Guignol as the tension between its two female stars heads inevitably toward a showdown.
Patrick ("Closer") Marber's melodramatic screenplay cleverly makes use of Barbara's voice-overs as she scribbles in her diary and makes jaded, bitter observations about the world around her. Abundant voice-overs usually point toward shortcomings in a drama, but here they provide irony and serve to enhance the dialog.
In her juiciest role since "Mrs Brown," Judi Dench brings an element of sympathy to Barbara, a closeted, self-loathing lesbian school teacher attracted to the new art teacher, Sheba, played by Cate Blanchett. Madly hoping to wrest the heterosexual Sheba from her husband and two children, one of whom has Down Syndrome, Barbara stumbles upon Sheba's sexual dalliance with a 15-year-old student. In a Machiavellian turn, Barbara hopes to manipulate Sheba by maintaining her secret . . . with strings attached. Need I add that all does not go well?
In fact, escalating histrionic fireworks ensue. Blanchett holds her own in this emotional and physical battle royal, capping her incredible year (2006) that also included outstanding performances in "Babel" and "The Good German." As Sheba's husband, Richard, Bill Nighy also comes through with a powerhouse performance. The moody score by Philip Glass is icing on the cake.
At a tidy 92 minutes, "Notes on a Scandal" is highly concentrated and vivid. The recently announced Golden Globe nominations include Dench, Blanchett and Marber, so we can expect Oscar nods as well.
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