The movie marathon today were all Oscar nominated movies, from nominations in the major awards like Picture and Director, to miscellaneous others (Dreamgirls), and acting, in which Notes on a Scandal garnered two for both Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, who are both already winners of the coveted award.
Here, the actresses go head to head in a psychological drama which pit one against the other, and their characters allow for a range of emotions to be displayed. You'd probably be impressed by their performances more than anything else in the movie.
Dench plays Barbara Covett, a spinster who's an historical relic in a rowdy neighbourhood school. She's strange, stern, unpopular, and quite the difficult person to work with, nor want to get close to. Her character narrates the story, as she meticulously documents the (boring) events of the day in her trusty diary. The school environment gets changed when a new beautiful art teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett) enters the scene, and becomes Miss Popular amongst both students and staff. Her feminine demeanour brings about a tinge of envy, yet attraction for Barbara, and for a moment, you'd cast that queer eye onto the development of their relationship.
Rarely do we see a story hinged so closely on the delivery of its leads, as it looks at emotions of obsession, envy, and lust. As Barbara gets close (and tries real hard) to Sheba, she learns that the latter's doesn't have that perfect family she envisioned from the presumptions made about a person, and managed to gain an upper hand in their relationship when she learns of a deep, dark secret of an affair with a minor. It's basically a primal power play amongst the women, as you see how a hunter snares its prey through cunning schemes and loaded barbs, blackmail, and threats.
It's a study into loneliness, as both Barbara and Sheba experience in their lives. One who obviously is alone, looking for long-lasting, and trusted companionship, while the other, alone in her messy family - coming from a bohemian lifestyle to the shackles of matrimony, with two challenging children to care for.
Alas, what ruined the powerful buildup of a full blown, potentially satisfying story, is the meek tapering off of its finale. The conflicts between the two women are a joy to watch, be it whether one party is cowering to the other, or if the other asserts herself with threats veiling her true intentions. And to see it all given up to end in a whimper, just failed to do the movie any justice.
Nonetheless, it's still highly recommended, as Blanchett and Dench don't disappoint. Just don't hold your breaths for a mind blowing ending, instead, it played off as it is, without much fuss.