Real intimacy has become so rare in today's movies that the fake intimacy of Notes on a Scandal may take you in, then leave you feeling rooked. Seldom has so much first-rate acting and top craftsmanship been wasted on such a small-minded melodrama. The cascade of interest it has aroused this award season may just reflect the current hipness of cruelty.
The film grabs your interest as a tale of two flawed teachers: the fetching art instructor Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), who sleeps with a 15-year-old student, and the battle-ax history department head, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), who uses knowledge of the affair to forge a closer bond with Sheba.
Notes on a Scandal (Fox Searchlight) Starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench (both pictured). Directed by Richard Eyre. Rated R. Time 91 minutes.