Notes on a Scandal

Rated 3.0

The basic ingredients may sound more or less irresistible—a cast headed by Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett in particular, but also a “controversial” story adapted from a novel by Zoe Heller, a score by Philip Glass, photography by the gifted Chris Menges, and production by the Brit theatrical team of Richard Eyre (direction) and Patrick Marber (screenplay). Dench and Blanchett, both of whom are nominated for Oscars, do fairly decent work, but neither of them really has a chance to pull the film out of its mediocre brand of seriousness. The central action revolves around spinster schoolteacher Barbara (Dench) who falls in love with younger teacher Sheba (Blanchett). The younger teacher is married with kids, but also finds herself plunging into a sexual relationship with one of her students, 15-year-old Steven (Andrew Simpson). The older teacher discovers this forbidden liaison and tries, crazily and pathetically, to use it as a means of intensifying her supposed bond with Sheba. And Sheba, frantically, tries to comply. What gets delivered onscreen is a kind of mean-spirited mishmash, an unachieved merger of lurid soap opera and low-key psycho-thriller. Pageant Theatre. Rated R