“The Notebook.” Gosling

From IMDB.com: Ryan Gosling prepared for his role by living in Charleston, South Carolina before filming began. For two months, he rowed the Ashley River in the morning and built furniture during the day.

Daniel Day-Lewis nods steely approval. Gosling is a badass.

“This is the only movie I’ll always say yes to watching,” my wife tells me. “Write that.”

We can take forever to pick a movie. The ordeal begins with DVD rack assessment. “Network”? I’ll say. “Midnight Run”? “Blade Runner”? No, no, no. “Dark Knight!” No. We’ll scroll Netflix options for half an hour. “Chinatown!” I’ll yell. “‘Capote,’ since Philip Seymour Hoffman just died!” “‘Bernie!’ McConaughey. Come on.” No and no.

“The Notebook” saves precious time.

“Lurgh,” the wife says as soon as it starts. “I hate the old people parts.” The old people parts are truly awful in “The Notebook.” It’s James Garner telling his wife about their days as youngsters in love. She’s got Alzheimer’s so bad she doesn’t remember.

But then we get to flashbacks—Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. I can’t help wondering as I watch this flick whether McAdams had a boyfriend when she was cast, and whether he came on set and watched Gosling convince her to go out with him by being as nice and handsome as possible. It would be like hoping the tide won’t rise.

“Wait,” my wife says. “Pause it.” She grabs the laptop. On YouTube, she brings up McAdams’s audition for the part. She’s reading with Gosling and they’re having a fight. She nails it. The camera holds only on her. You believe she loves whomever she’s yelling at, and is angry at him.

“Go back,” she says when it’s over. “Watch this.” At the end of the audition, Gosling is giving McAdams a hug. He pushes a strand of hair off her face and tucks it behind her ear. “They just met,” my wife says, “and he does that little intimate gesture.”

Instead of getting back to the movie, she next brings up a clip from the MTV Movie Awards in 2005, when “The Notebook” won Best Kiss. They go on stage and strip down to their undershirts. Gosling’s says “darfur.” They run at each other and she jumps onto him. He holds fistfuls of her hair. They kiss deep. The mob roars.

2005 MTV Movie Awards - Show

My wife says they were a couple at the time. Hope so. Again I wonder if she had a boyfriend who sat there watching, pretending it’s cool. “They’re actors,” he’d shrug defensively.

Those scenes when it’s not old people, when it’s Gossling convincing McAdams they should be together, are pretty charged.

“The Notebook” is sweet, but it’s also creepy how they’re lying together dead at the end.

And just because that old man says he used to be Gosling doesn’t mean it’s true. He cries, firstly. Gosling doesn’t cry. He almost cries, then stops himself. Duh. And after they’re dead the movie shows photos of them as a young couple. It’s not Gosling in the photos, it’s young James Garner. Mysterious.

“The Notebook” is a great Gosling, but it’s a silly movie unabashedly embracing cliches. (Evil mustaches abound.)

It’s not even close to my favorite Gossling. “Drive” is my favorite. He says almost nothing while taking down a terrifying gangster empire. “Half Nelson,” where he plays a cynical drug-addict public school teacher, is a primal screen of a movie that earned him an Oscar nomination when he was 26. (Click here for two great minutes of acting.) “The Ides of March” sees him practically becoming Darth Vader as he darkens from idealist into a backstabbing political viper. “Lars and the Real Girl” is weird and great. “Gangster Squad” is not a good movie, but Gosling’s awesome in it as a World War I vet cop who doesn’t care about anything.

Bradley Cooper is an A-list stud now, right? In “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Cooper’s relegated to everyman, because Gosling’s in the movie and there can’t be two alphas.

The man is one of our best movie stars.

I made a pact once over a college foosball game to never watch “The Notebook.” Randy broke it first. If he hadn’t, my wife and I would still be scrolling Netflix.

“Last of the Mohicans!” No.

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