The Notebook appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Much of the image looked great, but one notable flaw marred the presentation.
And what was that problem? Edge enhancement, as a lot of shots suffered from prominent haloes. These weren’t completely pervasive, but they popped up much more often – and to a much more obvious degree – than I’d expect.
Otherwise, the image was aces. Even with the haloes, the movie showed strong definition. A little softness could appear in some wide shots – usually abetted by the edge enhancement – but usually the film displayed solid delineation. No issues with shimmering or jaggies occurred, and the movie lacked source flaws or obvious signs of digital noise reduction.
Colors looked lovely. The movie went with a warm, rich palette that came across well here; in particular, reds appeared sumptuous. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows offered nice clarity and smoothness. Without the edge enhancement, this would’ve been an “A” image, but as it stood, I couldn’t rate it above a “B-“.
As for the film’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, it provided typical “romantic drama” fare. The soundfield didn’t have a lot to do; it concentrated on good stereo music and general ambience. Scenes at the ocean or during the carnival opened up matters a bit – and a short World War II battle scene added punch - but the track usually remained restrained.
Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music appeared fairly full; the score could’ve been a bit more vibrant, but it came across with reasonable definition. Effects didn’t impress but they weren’t supposed to do so; they remained clear and accurate, though. Nothing here impressed, but it worked fine for the story.
This 2013 “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” appears to provide the same Blu-ray previously released along with some non-disc-based materials. In terms of extras, we open with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Nick Cassavetes, as he delivers a running, screen-specific look at how he came onto the project, cast and performances, story/character areas, sets and locations, music, editing, issues with the MPAA, cinematography, some period elements, and a few other topics.
If Cassavetes made movies half as bright and funny as this commentary, he'd win Oscars. From start to finish, the director delivers a delightful take on this film, as he covers a wide range of subjects and does so in an honest, upfront manner. In particular, I like his discussion about working with his mother, Gena Rowlands, but pretty much everything here works - it's a great chat.
For the second commentary, we hear from novelist Nicholas Sparks. He gives us his own running, screen-specific discussion of aspects of his writing career, the origins of and influences on his novel, comparisons between the book and the movie, thoughts about the flick's creation/shoot, and connected subjects.
Sparks follows Cassavetes' track with an equally good commentary. He's more reserved than the director, but he digs into the topics in a thorough manner that sheds a lot of light on his creative processes and story/character areas. Sparks keeps going at a nice pace and turns this into a strong track.
Four featurettes follow. All in the Family: Nick Cassavetes goes for 11 minutes, 39 seconds and offers notes from Cassavetes and actors Sam Shepard, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, James Marsden, Joan Allen and Gena Rowlands. “Family” looks at what Cassavetes brought to the project as well as aspects of the shoot. A few decent moments appear here but the piece feels rather fluffy and insubstantial.
During the six-minute, 36-second Nicholas Sparks: A Simple Story, Well Told, we find notes from Sparks, Time Warner Book Group CEO Laurence Kirschbaum and Time Warner Book Group publisher Jamie Raab. “Told” tells us how Sparks sold Notebook and its success. This becomes a love letter to Sparks and his book.
Southern Exposure: Locating The Notebook lasts 11 minutes, 33 seconds and offers info from Marsden, Shepard, screenwriter Jeremy Leven, location manager Steve Rhea, producer Mark Johnson, preservationist Randall Goldman, Boone Hall Plantation office manager Julie Rowe, production designer Sarah Knowles, and Black River Plantation owner Robert DeLapp. As implied by the title, “Exposure” goes into sets and locations. It becomes a reasonable overview of the movie’s locales.
Finally, Casting Ryan and Rachel runs four minutes, six seconds and features Johnson, Gosling, Shepard, Cassavetes, and McAdams. As expected, the featurette tells us how Gosling and McAdams wound up on the film. It’s short but acceptable despite a lot of praise for the actors.
12 Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 28 minutes, 33 seconds. These tend to either add to existing sequences or just expand already established character/story concepts. One makes Allie’s mother more of an active liar, and another casts doubt about Duke’s real identity.
Fans will enjoy the material – especially the extended love scenes – but I don’t think there’s anything particularly useful here. Indeed, some of the footage spells out concepts way too clearly and would’ve made the movie drag more than it already does.
We can view the scenes with or without commentary from editor Alan Heim. He tells us about his career and how he works as well as aspects of the various scenes and why they got cut. Heim makes this a much broader, deeper deleted scenes commentary than most; it’s a terrific discussion.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a Rachel McAdams Screen Test. It fills three minutes, 37 seconds and shows one scene between McAdams and Gosling. We see a little of this in the “Casting” featurette, but it’s cool to watch the whole thing here.
A second disc provides a DVD Copy of The Notebook. This appears to replicate the original 2005 release, so it includes the same extras found on the Blu-ray.
A number of physical materials come as part of this Ultimate Collector’s Edition. An envelope holds six movie-related postcards, and a small locket comes in the box. Finally, we get a journal that includes a few movie quotes but mostly remains open for the owner to use.
Slow, predictable and trite, The Notebook gives us lowest common denominator romantic drama. It comes with a talented cast but lacks any real emotion, creativity or drive. The Blu-ray delivers picture quality that would excel without copious edge haloes; audio is fine for the genre, and the set includes a solid selection of supplements. I feel pleased mostly with this release, but I take no pleasure from the movie itself.
In terms of purse strings, I suspect most will want to pursue the standard Blu-ray release – with its $15 MSRP - and leave this expensive Ultimate Collector’s Edition to the film’s most devoted fans, as its additions don’t seem to be worth the substantial extra cost.