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.
Release Year: 2006
Rating: 7.5/10 (37,265 voted)
Critic's Score: 73/100
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Andrew Simpson
The bitter, cynical and lonely Barbara Covett is a tough and conservative teacher near to retirement that 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…
Writers: Patrick Marber, Zoe Heller
(as Phil Davis)
One Woman's Mistake Is Another's Opportunity…
Fox Searchlight [United States] |
Release Date: 5 January 2007
Filming Locations: 2 Wembury Road, Highgate, London, England, UK
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $5,090
(24 December 2006)
(9 April 2007)
Did You Know?
When Barbara has had her meeting with the headmaster at which he reveals what he knows about her stalking of Jennifer Dodd, she throws up in a school toilet. In the background, on the wall, is written the graffiti: "Babs Covett = nasty old lezza. I want to lick her mangy twat."
When Sheba goes up to her daughter's bedroom, she is listening to music on headphones, which disappear too quickly between shots.
[voiceover of Barbara writing in her diary]
People trust me with their secrets. But who do I trust with mine? You, only you.
The Dame vs. The Cate
Instead of becoming the tawdry, salacious affair it could've easily
been, two masterful and textured performances from two of our greatest
actresses catapult "Notes on a Scandal" to the echelon of art-house
entertainment. In one corner, we have Dame Judi Dench as the lonely
schoolmarm and mentor. In the other corner, we have Cate Blanchett as
the flighty but endearing new art teacher just begging for someone to
take her under their wing. The film starts innocuously enough, with the
two women becoming fast friends, with Blanchett inviting Dench into her
home and family, and Dench all too eager to find a new best friend.
Deliciously seasoned with spicy subtexts involving the bourgeois sense
of entitlement, the bitterness of the lower middle class, the
candidness of those with everything who never seem to be satisfied, the
resentment of those sucked into this confidence, and of course, the
psycho-sexual entrapments of all relationships, "Notes on a Scandal" is
rife with everyday tragedy. The convoluted subtexts often take
precedence over what is being seen on screen, until Dench's voice-over
entrances us and sucks us in.
In the early scenes where Dench is describing her burgeoning
fascination with Blanchett, the audience shares in the allure as Dench
paints beautifully the appeal of Blanchett's talents as an actress.
Soon, though, the fantasy makes way for reality, and Blanchett as raw
and vulnerable as she has ever been falls under the spell of a troubled
15 year-old boy with whom she begins an illicit affair. Blanchett's
folly is mirrored in Dench's obsession with becoming her sole
Director Richard Eyre (who previously directed Dench in the superb
"Iris") structures the film in a crisp clip. As the plot quickly goes
through the motions, secrets are revealed, true natures are uncovered,
and the lives of both women become tragically entangled as they
Enough can't be said about Dench's mastering of the thespian art form.
She could've easily dived head first into this role and delivered
something akin to Kathy Bates turn as the mad spinster in "Misery."
Instead, she adds subtlety, humor, and melancholy in her perfectly
balanced performance that allows you to sympathize with her character
for the loneliness she feels while at the same time hating her for her
opportunism and bitterness.
Likewise, Blanchett, manages to play to our sympathies, and it's easy
to see why Dench, the boy in question, and Blanchett's husband (a
shockingly good Bill Nighy), are completely smitten with her despite
With betrayal leading to hatred and a complete breakdown of all things
sacred in human connections, the climactic showdown between The Dame
and The Cate is the type of goose-bump inducing acting tour de force
moviegoers dream about. There's also a sense of a symbolic passing of
the torch from one generation of great actresses to the next. Far from
being just the highbrow version of "Single White Female," "Notes on a
Scandal" entertains and provokes those willing to enjoy the
psychologically complex roller coaster.