To quote Gena Rowlands: '''The Notebook' is a love story -- a big love story -- of people who love each other long and hard through times when you would expect them not to. Really, it's a summer romance that lasts a lifetime.''
Based on the 1996 novel by Nicholas Sparks, ''Notebook'' is set primarily in 1940s North Carolina, where two giddy, gorgeous youngsters, Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling), fall for each other on the eve of World War II. Rowlands and James Garner play the couple in their twilight years, and it's through their flashbacks that the story unfolds. ''I'm a sucker for those sweeping love stories,'' admits McAdams. ''When I read the script, I couldn't stop crying! I just had such a powerful, instantaneous reaction -- it was written so well.''
Still, McAdams was plenty jittery about making the leap from supporting comedic roles (''Mean Girls,'' ''The Hot Chick'') to dramatic leading lady -- especially opposite Gosling, who has gained recognition for his portrayals of dark, brooding characters in ''The Believer'' and ''Murder by Numbers.'' (While ''Notebook'' may seem like a shift, McAdams points out that Noah is an ''intense, tortured leading man.'') Then there was the director, Nick Cassavetes, who just happens to be Rowlands' son (Mom also starred in his 1996 dramedy ''Unhook the Stars''). ''I was definitely nervous,'' McAdams admits. ''But one great thing about Nick was, he's an actor as well, so he realizes how arbitrary and strange the actor's process can be.'' Garner agrees -- though Cassavetes' set did take some getting used to. ''I gotta tell you, the first day, we were doing a scene, and Nicky said, 'Okay, action, Mom!' I thought that was hysterical! I ruined the shot!''
THE GOOD NEWS Those in the market for a good cry have few other options this summer.
THE BAD NEWS Its weepy sentimentality may be a little too syrupy for some.