Notes on a Scandal is a delicious little bitchfest for Judi Dench, who knows how to use her instrument of a voice to zing, slam, condescend. Her frosty authority is the lap-it-up kind—you can’t get enough of it. At the opening of the picture, she’s narrating about the school at which she teaches, dishing her snippy impressions about the students and teachers and it’s so enjoyably nasty that you may find that much of it will come rushing back to mind later and you’ll find yourself laughing, despite how repellent her character is. Happily, she narrates throughout. Dench is also one half of a great night out: Cate Blanchett once more proves very convincingly there’s hardly anything she can’t do, and she’s every bit the match for (though not necessarily against) her stalking nemesis. Both roles could be embarrassments in the wrong hands—there’s a cheeky element of a women’s picture as horror show here—yet these two powerhouses, justly nominated for Academy Awards, keep us from cowering. Sharply directed by Richard Eyre, from a provocative script ripped from the headlines by Patrick Maber.

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Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER  All Rights Reserved.