Richard Eyre’s dark, lustful Notes on a Scandal is a film about teachers that parents wouldn’t approve but kids would love. Imagine being fifteen and being blown by a teacher who is hot as Cate Blanchett. But that’s only one juicy part of the story. The main one is the fatal lesbian attraction between the young and sweet Sheba Hart who screws her student under the train track and the creepy, old Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) who is a conservative homosexual and a well-respected teacher.
What drives the film is the superb interaction between Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Dench is like the female version of Jack Nicholson whose facial expression tells it. Whether she’s angry, disturbed, or betrayed, Dench remains unsympathetic and unapologetic, even when she blows the secret. Blanchett, on the other hand, is vulnerable, eye-catcher, and forgivable. Even her husband (a great role by Bill Nighy) who was cheated on admits that she’s a good mother, but a lousy wife.
While Cate’s milkshake brings all the boys and girls to the yard, Dench wants it all to herself. Narrated by Babara’s insensitive, heartless tone, she feeds us the inner thoughts of a dark, secretive woman. It’s fascinating to see how she brings the one she loves to her by taking her away from the boy and her own family.