Notes on a Scandal

2006

Notes on a Scandal

Critics Consensus

In this sharp psychological thriller, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett give fierce, memorable performances as two schoolteachers locked in a battle of wits.

87%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 173

83%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 77,739
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Movie Info

Two women, caught up in a drama of need and betrayal, are at the heart of the psychological thriller "Notes on a Scandal." The twists and turns of the story are noted in the acerbic diary of Barbara Covett, a domineering and solitary teacher who rules with an iron fist over her classroom at a decaying state-run secondary school in London. Save for her cat, Portia, Barbara lives alone, without friends or confidantes--but her world changes when she meets the school's new art teacher, Sheba Hart. Sheba appears to be the kindred spirit and loyal friend Barbara has always been seeking. But, when she discovers that Sheba is having an incendiary affair with one of her young students, their budding relationship takes an ominous turn. Now, as Barbara threatens to expose Sheba's terrible secret to both her husband and the world, Barbara's own secrets and dark obsessions come tumbling to the fore, exposing the deceptions at the core of each of the women's lives.

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Critic Reviews for Notes on a Scandal

All Critics (173) | Top Critics (47)

  • Smart and brash, it's a picture Bette Davis and Joan Crawford would have killed (preferably each other) to be in.

    May 15, 2009 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • That's the wonder of the film: it's about the vicious power of loneliness, played out through a story of two women in love. The tragedy, for both of them, is that it's not with each other.

    Feb 9, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Blanchett has also recently appeared in The Good German and Babel, but this represents far and away her best work.

    Feb 9, 2007 | Rating: A | Full Review…
  • Richard Eyre directs the film like a chamber play. He leans on Philip Glass's ever-present and insistent music like a crutch. But his natural gift for framing scenes is terrifically assured. A potent and evil pleasure.

    Feb 5, 2007 | Rating: 5/6 | Full Review…
  • Notes on a Scandal is about something deeply unlovely in human nature rarely explored by poets, or novelists, or film-makers: the explosive combination of desire and social envy.

    Feb 3, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Richard Eyre's direction merely plays up the melodramatic aspects of Zoë Heller's novel, screenwriter Patrick Marber's acidic dialogue occasionally slips into the overwritten, and the rest of the cast gamely chews table scraps.

    Feb 3, 2007 | Rating: 3/6 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Notes on a Scandal

  • Mar 07, 2012
    A rare film that centers on two women, Notes on a Scandal is intense, superbly acted and immensely engaging. The strength of the film rests mostly with the women-Dench and Blanchett-who give powerful, realistic performances. Even though Dench's character doesn't do any favors for older, single possibly lesbian women, she is able to transcend what could have been schlocky material to give the film a sense of gravitas. (Only the final scene goes over the top.) Blanchett's sweet, porcelain-like Sheba is the last person one would think to be caught up in this type of situation; however, that's what makes the film memorable. There's also an element of morality for the real world in the movie, from the problems with cheating to trusting people and knowing they have you over a barrel. None of these themes are ponderously pounded into the audience; they are there, but never really draw direct attention.
    Jason V Super Reviewer
  • Feb 06, 2012
    Oh Judi Dench is so good in this film. Just look at the way that she makes Cate Blanchett twist and turn. Not even as fine an actor as Blanchett can escape from a determined Dench. The result is sizzling drama.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 21, 2011
    Notes on a Scandal is a near flawless film with stellar acting that will keep the viewer on the edge of his seat. The film has a phenomenal cast that makes this film an incredible cinematic experience. Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench are incredible in their respective roles. Notes on a Scandal is superior drama film that might divide the viewers due to its subject matter. A new art teacher at a school is suspected to having a sexual affair with a fellow student by an elderly teacher, Barbara (Judi Dench) that there's an affair going on between the new teacher, Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). I thought that Notes on a Scandal was a terrific film, and the acting displayed on screen by Dench and Blanchett is what makes this film a unique viewing experience. Both actresses are accomplished and have incredible talent, and seeing that talent comes through is really what makes this film worth watching. Notes on a Scandal is a well made film with phenomenal acting and despite its somewhat controversial subject is a great story as well. The film works because of the great acting that the lead actresses display on screen, and though uneven at times, Notes on a Scandal is still a solid enough thriller to enjoy with plenty of tricks up its sleeves.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jun 09, 2011
    When you pair Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett together, you can expect high caliber acting no matter the script. As uncomfortable the subject matter is, "Notes on a Scandal," based on the novel by Zoë Heller, provided quality material for them to work with. Dench's performance of a lonely, obsessive elderly teacher was chilling and intimidating, made eerier by her stern voiceover, while Blanchett had the naivety, vulnerability and uncertainty as called for. The plot was also handled with care to not overdo the madness, keeping it shrewd and crisp.
    Chihoe H Super Reviewer

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