Friends in love

{mosimage}Based on Zoe Heller's book, one of
the most exciting female acting duels that you could imagine has arrived on DVD:
Barbara vs. Sheba,
or what is the same, Judi Dench vs. Cate Blanchett, both winners
of the Academy Award in previous years. Notes on a Scandal, directed by Richard Eyre,
introduce us into a normal English school scenario where two different
professors will become close friends, linked in their destinies in a fatal way:
The old and grumpy Barbara trying to guide the young and beauty Sheba.

 

 

{sidebar id=9}Cate Blanchett really looks astonishing in
the film (not a surprise for many since more than one fell in love with her
ambiguous Galadriel during Lord of the Rings, even rejecting Arwen’s
charms). The friendship relation will became vicious when Barbara discovers
that Sheba, who is married and with a daughter of 16 and a son with Down’s syndrome,
is having sex relations with a 15 years old pupil from her school. But more
than judging the morality of the actions by the professor, the plotline is
aimed at showing how dangerous can be to share secrets with the wrong friends. Both
actresses are superb in their roles, but I was expecting a bit more of “punch”
for the last third of the film.

The role of the young boy is pretty much
obliterated in many parts of the movie, and the shared scenes between Dench and
Blanchett turn to be a bit boring at the end. The best moments usually happen
when there is a third guest between the two main characters, as when Barbara is
sharing dinner with the family (mention apart for the great job of the betrayed
husband Bill Nighy), or in the erotic scenes with Blanchett and the
young Andrew Simpson (who made his debut here while having to assist to
his own normal lessons at school).

There was quite a polemic when the film was
about to be released about the sex scenes in the British media, but from my
point of view, that part has been treated with extreme delicacy. In any case,
if you want to find the “leitmotiv” that leads to the female characters in the
film, think more about loneliness and boredom than about lust.