Notes On A Scandal

Notes On A Scandal

(2007)
In an intriguing departure from her usual, Judi Dench plays Barbara - a bitter, creepy and iron-fisted teacher at a low rent secondary school in London. Barb’s only companion is her cat, so when the new art teacher Sheba (Blanchett) begins, she finds a pet obsession. Sheba’s a young, attractive, married with kids bohemian – everything Barb isn’t and wants to be.

But she’s also got a secret. Barbara learns of it when she spies Sheba, in the arms of a 15 year old student (Simpson). Barbara’s initial shock quickly dissipates as she realises the power she now holds over her new ‘friend’.

Flicks Review

'Notes On A Scandal' is about a lonely history teacher (Judi Dench) who forms an obsessive relationship with the new glamorous art teacher (Cate Blanchett). When Cate starts offering extra-curricular 'lessons' (nudge, nudge) to a 15-year-old student, a tangled web of lies and deceit is woven by the spider-like Dame Dench.

Film wankers might call this setup 'delicious'. I would too. It’s highly entertaining watching two superb actresses deliver such fine performances. Dench is far removed from the authoritative 'M' in the James Bond series, and is instead seen here as an unglamorous old prune. Dried up in more ways than one, there's a look of desperation in her eyes as she clings for friendship with the breezy Blanchett.

And may I offer a round of applause to the always-excellent Bill Nighy who plays Blanchett's husband - a university professor who is quite content to spend time at home with their disabled son. (Dench's character refers to this poor young lad as a 'jester'). I particularly enjoyed listening to Nighy's 'arguing voice'.

Unfortunately the 15-year-old student around whom the whole Machiavellian plot revolves is a little bit miscast alongside Blanchett. He gives a decent performance, but he's a bit young and it's hard to believe that Blanchett's character would actually be interested in him. Surely there are other 15-year-old actors who have a bit more maturity in the sex appeal department.

The 'delicious' events are accompanied by a 'sumptuous' score by Phillip Glass. He became well-known for his minimalist compositions, but here he goes way over the top. Who said that was a bad thing? Not me, I think it's great to have a pulsing string section ratcheting up the tension between these two fine thespians. It all adds a theatrical feel to the film. It's drama with a capital 'D' that stops short of becoming hammy.

The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 10 ratings, 10 reviews
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BY Kat2 grader

This film was simply compelling. Not a huge Judi Dench fan, I am now after seeing this film. Her performance in this film was thoroughly authentic, complementing Blanchett's convincing portrayal of a dissolute teacher tainted by her middle class label. The connection between these women was about their loneliness with one so detatched, Ba (Dench), she was really isolated and alienated from society, only functioning through a steely-mask in her role as a "teacher".
A little disturbing was... More Sheba's (Blanchett) fascination with a 15 year old student. It was difficult to see this boy's appeal and he did seem miscast as Sheba seemed so adult next to him. A more mature looking actor for the role would have made this affair seem more viable. But perhaps this boyishness was the director's purpose, to shock the audience more.
The ending of the film was rather formulaic. However it didn't diminish the overall residual power of the content and themes of this film.
Jarring, real and memorable.Hide


go see .it. Perfect performance by Dench the work horse.You will not take your eyes off the screeen and you will never feel the same about helpful spinsters.

Note the most evocative portrayal of the well of human lonliness I have ever seen on the silver screen


Wonderful acting and intrigue by the bucketful this film was a delightful surprise.
I didn't know anything about this film before going in to see it and I think that made it even better! I saw the trailer for it a week after seeing the movie and was thoroughly disappointed! It gave away most of the plot. Poor people who hadn't seen it already. Even the big fight scene was given away. Shame on the promoters.
I would definitely suggest people see this film.


I enjoyed 'Notes On A Scandal', but felt a little under-whelmed by the end. The ending I thought was a bit of a non-event.

The characters are multi-layered and very interesting. The performances, as you might have gathered from all reviews here, are very good - including also Bill Nighy. And did anyone else think Sheba went a bit too far at the end? Hitting poor ol' Judi like that. No excuse for hitting an old lady.


I am an unashamed Judi Dench fan. Bias declared I will go onto say that her performance is intense but subtle. No over-acting here. The person she presents to us is humanly complex and I left the theatre both horrified by and sympathetic to her. Not a feel good film but a disturbing thought provoking film which I will be chewing over and relishing for weeks to come.


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The Press Reviews

  • BBC

    Imposing spaces, muted colours and a spine-tingling score heighten the journey into the dark recesses of Barbara's mind. With every manipulation, it becomes creepier and more compelling... Full Review

  • Intelligent, classy and skin-crawling. You won't see a better acting masterclass this year... Full Review

  • Eyre does a fine job overseeing performances by a terrific cast that rings true until female hysteria takes over the final act. But in tone and theme, the film has all the hallmarks of playwright-screenwriter Marber's stark, uncompromising misanthropy, if not misogyny... Full Review

  • In bringing Heller's book to the screen, director Richard Eyre ("Iris," "Stage Beauty") and screenwriter Patrick Marber ("Closer") have tossed the book's subtlety out the window, along with its psychological complexity, its running theme of self-deception and its dark, extra-wry sense of humor... Full Review

  • The riveting interplay between Dench and Cate Blanchett draws blood with every scene, thanks to a precision-honed script and Eyre's equally incisive direction... Full Review

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