Friday, March 02, 2007

Notes on a scandal - Cate and Judi star

Two wrongs most definitely do not make a right, but they do in this tense dramatisation of events in the lives of two schoolteachers and their families, from the novel by the English writer, Zoe Heller.
Committing a massive transgression, Sheba (Cate Blanchett) is discovered in flagrante delicto by Barbara Covett (Judi Dench). Ms Covett seems to offer the desperate Sheba a much needed shoulder to cry on, but she has an ulterior motive.
Revered and respected by colleagues at the school, Covett takes Sheba by the arm - literally - and begins to lead her away from the frightening impasse the 37-year old finds herself in.
Sheba's family are totally unaware of the situation which is escalating and threatening to ruin everything. Barbara seems as good as her word, but then matters worsen until the distraught and furious parents of the juvenile rush into the lives of all in a scene so well choriographed and executed, it felt like being there.
The husband (Bill Nighy) is understandably furious and kicks Sheba out. Covett comes to the rescue with the offer of a refuge until things settle.
Moving in with Barbara is Sheba's worst move since the one that started it all. She soon learns, from Covett's ransacked notes, of the older woman's designs on her. Sheba confronts her and eventually flies back home, not before a 10-month stretch in prison.
This is an intense film with superb performances from Blanchett and Dench, and also the wonderful Bill Nighy, totally believable as a doting father and a partner feeling dropped on.
Suspend your judgment on Sheba if you can - Blanchett and the screenplay conspire openly to help you. Dench's character receives no such aid.
A cautionary tale, 'Notes on a scandal' (92 mins) was nominated for Oscars recently. It should have been awarded them.
Robert L. Fielding