Notes on a Scandal

Rated 3.0

A middle-aged British schoolteacher (Judi Dench) becomes the friend and confidante of the school’s new art teacher (Cate Blanchett). Then she learns that the newcomer is having an affair with a student (Andrew Simpson), and her own predatory instincts come out. Writer Patrick Marber and director Richard Eyre (adapting Zoë Heller’s novel) are saddled with a distasteful story populated by unlikable people—even the student is a conniving little snake—whose names tend to the archly Dickensian: Dench’s envious battle-axe is named “Ms. Covett,” Blanchett’s romantic fool is “Ms. Hart,” the unctuous headmaster is “Mr. Pabblem,” etc. But for all that, the movie is sharply observed, Eyre paces it with an eye for the telling detail, and Blanchett and Dench give harrowing, fearless performances.