New York Post
Published: June 20, 2004
The romantic tearjerker “The Notebook” stands out in a summer of popcorn blockbusters as a prime example of counter-programming.
The sentimental period drama, out Friday, is also notable for another reason: It announces 25-year-old newcomer Rachel McAdams as a superstar-in-waiting.
Critics have been going gaga for the classic beauty, who effortlessly shoulders the emotional weight of the film and lights up the screen with a high-wattage smile that rivals Julia Roberts’.
The captivating Canadian has been compared to the movie stars of Hollywood’s golden age, and the 1940s-set “Notebook” allows her to channel the old-school glamour of her idol Elizabeth Taylor while wearing a succession of gorgeous, era-specific outfits.
McAdams, a self-confessed “hopeless romantic,” admits she sometimes feels she is living in the wrong century.
“I feel like maybe I should have been born in [the 1940s] or even further back, when things seemed simpler,” she told The Post. “I know that’s a myth, but the modern world gives me a headache sometimes.”
Still, it is a mark of the young starlet’s protean talent that she can be just as effective in a contemporary comedy like this spring’s “Mean Girls,” in which she played the malicious leader of The Plastics.
In Nick Cassavetes’ “Notebook,” McAdams is light years away from that icy blond prom princess, injecting her character with a warmth and vibrancy that dominates the screen.
She plays Allie, a free-spirited Southern debutante swept up in a forbidden romance with Noah, a cheeky but down-to-earth mill worker played by Ryan Gosling. The bittersweet story of teenage first love is told in flashback as a man (James Garner) reads from a notebook to a woman (Gena Rowlands) he visits at a nursing home.
It’s a three-hankie weeper, and McAdams admits to getting a lump in her throat when she watched it for the first time with an audience, at a tiny historical theater in Maryland, where she was filming her next project, the Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn comedy “Wedding Crashers.”
“I guess I’m just a true believer in love and how miraculous it can be,” she says. “I’m not terribly jaded yet – I’ve had some wonderful loves in my life, enough to know it’s something I want to have forever.”
This wistful introspection may sound strange coming from the actress who made her Hollywood debut in the low-rent body-swap comedy “The Hot Chick,” but she was just as shocked as anyone else when she landed that role.
“I never in a million years imagined I’d be playing that sort of part,” says McAdams, who was doing Shakespeare at age 12.
While she says the serious drama of “The Notebook” felt “more in my comfort zone,” her first leading role brought its own challenges.
“I felt a certain responsibility carrying the film,” she says. “I knew I was very green and that they were taking a chance on me because I’m not a name.”
That situation can’t last long, but McAdams – who divides her time between Los Angeles and Canada – admits to being wary of having the It Girl tag thrust upon her.
“I don’t know what the consequences of that sort of label are,” she says. “You either move beyond It Girl to Working Girl, and then to appreciated, somewhat artistically satisfied actress, or you just end up a former It Girl.”
She laughs with refreshing frankness. “I don’t know anything about how this business works – I just want longevity. If being given the label It Girl helps, then I guess I’m happy to have it.”
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