Ten years ago last week, “The Notebook” opened in theaters, making stars out of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, spawning adaptations of every other gooey romance novel Nicholas Sparks ever wrote, and taking some of the heat off “Love Actually” as the sappiest romance of the ’00s.
At the time, I actually sort of liked it, and thought McAdams and Gosling brought loads of charm to what was a very silly story. But one thing has bugged me ever since about “The Notebook” — the ending. As I was of the theater, I wrote in my head a much better ending to “The Notebook.” one that is even more sappy and sentimental than the original, but more interesting and surprising as well.
I’m right about this. So, on the 10th anniversary of the film’s release, I present my revised “Notebook” for your appraisal.
As everybody remembers, “The Notebook” uses as its framing device a sweet old couple, played by James Garner and Gena Rowlands. Garner’s character visits Rowland, who is suffering from severe dementia, in a nursing home. She’s lost to the world, except when he reads her excerpts from an old notebook, chronicling her life as a young woman.
That young woman (McAdams) was a sparky Southern belle who falls for a dirt-poor but charming carnie (Gosling, natch). Her mom forbids the romance, of course, preferring she goes for that nice millionaire’s son (James Marsden) at the plantation down the road. She even comes close to marrying Marsden, but the pull of the Gos is just too much. She chooses him over Marsden (who, considering he’s the Baxter in this movie, isn’t such a bad guy), and then, of course, they morph into Garner and Rowlands. Who then die in bed together next day. (If you want to read a much funniest plot synopsis, read Lindy West’s epic piece in Jezebel.)
Now, having Gosling and McAdams together certainly is what we all expected to happen, right? Rich girl and poor boy finally find true love together, and stick it out right to the simultaneous end. Everybody’s crying.
But my ending is better.
We’re back at the end of “The Notebook,” except that Gosling doesn’t turn into Garner. No, in my ending, MARSDEN turns into Garner. It turns out that McAdams chickened out and DIDN’T choose Gosling, and instead followed her mother’s advice and married the nice rich guy. And they had a life together, but she always secretly pined for Gos. And her husband KNEW that she always loved Gos more. But he stuck with her because he’s that kind of guy.
So now he’s James Garner, and his wife is suffering from full-on dementia. And the only way to reach her is to read the notebook to her, to stir up all those powerful feelings that she had for his old rival. He loves her that much. And, when remembering that love finally brings her back to life, she looks at him with tenderness and love. Because she thinks she’s looking at GOSLING (who died in a Tilt-A-Whirl accident or something — hadn’t really fleshed that part out.)
But he loves her that much that he’s willing to give her that. To let her believe that he’s the man she really loved, even as it breaks his heart.
I mean, come on. That’s friggin’ AWESOME. If the original ending is like a two-hankie weeper, this is five or six, easy.
Mr. Sparks, you know how to reach me. It’s not too late to fix this.