Director: Richard Eyre
Director Richard Eyre and Closer playwright Patrick Marber did a tremendous job of transforming Zoe Heller’s sharp, intense and wicked tale of a friendship that grows into obsession between two British schoolteachers in the screen version of her novel Notes On A Scandal. Judi Dench is calculatingly icy (with a dead-on air of cynicism in her off-screen postmodern narration) as veteran teacher Barbara Covett, who finds her dull, gray, burned out existence livened up with the arrival of new teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett given a name that alludes to her impulsive romantic decisions). After years of marriage to Bill Nighy and being a devoted mother to her two children including a son with Down’s Syndrome who recently has joined an excellent school, Hart joins the work force again and finds not only the typical educational struggles she must face but complicates matters on her own accord after beginning a regrettably bold and shocking affair with a fifteen year old pupil. The equally aptly named Covett (who covets Blanchett indeed), is the sole witness to the goings-on and uses her knowledge of the indiscretion to help control her burgeoning relationship with Hart as she begins to let her increasingly obsessive and irrational feelings for her colleague dangerously affect her judgment. The two actresses who earned numerous critical raves and accolades (including several prizes for Blanchett), also received Oscar nominations for both Best Actress (Dench) and Supporting Actress (Blanchett) respectively along with Oscar nods for screenwriter Marber’s adaptation and the powerful and at times overwhelming compositions from legendary musician Phillip Glass. While Dench’s crazed lesbian stalker character does eventually devolve into a bit of a tired and unfair cliché that recalls the Shirley MacLaine role in William Wyler’s filmed version of Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour, the disturbing and thrillingly well crafted, intimate drama will keep viewers riveted.