Best Movie Ever?: “Notes on a Scandal”

I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less than watch The Hobbit. Haven’t we put Peter Jackson‘s six-hour Crayola still-lifes behind us yet? These movies look like Lisa Frank folders come to life, and if Peter’s not going to include magenta unicorns and rainbow clouds in his adventures, he doesn’t care about anyone having a good time. 

Meanwhile his star Cate Blanchett, which is Latin for “cheekbones of corundum,” is a damn treasure. I want her in everything: movies, TV shows, flash mobs, yo’ face, etc. And if I’m going to spend my holiday season with Cate Blanchett, I’m going to do it via Notes on a Scandal, the perfect camp trifle. Do you like illicit affairs, scheming lesbians, and bastardly quotes? Then you should really read up on Lillian Hellman. Oh, and watch this week’s Best. Movie. Ever! selection. 

Here are five dandy reasons Notes on a Scandal may be the beeeest mooooviee eveeeeer.


1. Does Judi Dench work for Ray-Ban? Because she has a monopoly on shade. 

It goes like this: Barbara (Judi Dench) is a veteran teacher and legendary spinster at an English school. She befriends a new teacher named Sheba (Blanchett), which is short for Bathsheba, which certainly isn’t symbolic. Sheba is stuck in an unfulfilling marriage with two mediocre kids, and for some reason she confides this in Scowl Empress Barbara. Good. Lo and behold, Barbara discovers that Sheba is having an affair with a 15-year-old student, and rather than tell on her, she pledges to keep the secret — as long as Sheba complies to her seemingly friendly demands, which grow weirder and kookier as the movie goes on. Oh, Sheba. You charming idiot. 

Before the movie spins into delirium, Barbara narrates the story and unleashes fun quotes about everyone in sight. Of Sheba: “Is she a sphinx or is she simply stupid?” Of Sheba’s family: “They do things differently in [their] bourgeois bohemia.” Of her school’s students: “In the old days we confiscated cigarettes and wank mags. Now it’s knives and crack cocaine. And they call it progress.” 

It didn’t hit me until re-watching Notes on a Scandal that Judi Dench is rarely this snooty on film anymore. So each bitchy quote here is a charm, a Werther’s Original to tickle your blackest thatch of soul. When she calls Sheba’s Down Syndrome-affected son “a somewhat tiresome court jester,” I personally abandoned all decorum, choked on my howls of laughter, and fell through the floor into the sky.  


2. Cate cannot. Stop. Messing up. 

You hate to see a character so helpless. Or do you? I’m kidding. I love watching Sheba stumble into an affair with a juvenile delinquent. I know it’s pedophilia and that’s repulsive, but so is being stupid. Barbara merely has to peek in a window on campus to discover Sheba’s transgressions. Come on, Sheba. Take that shit to a handicapped stall at Barnes & Noble. 

Cate’s personal Vili Fualaau, this brooding chap, does a pretty good job in a supporting role. But you can tell by the layers of hoodie and Benicio del Toro undertones that he’s bad news. Sheba! You fool! Never date someone whose favorite movie is definitely Green Street Hooligans.


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