Opens Monday December 25 NOTES ON A SCANDAL (Richard Eyre). 91 minutes. For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The guilty side of guilty pleasures often gets overlooked, but that's impossible with Notes On A Scandal .
The Judi Dench - Cate Blanchett sex thriller gets so ludicrous, so borderline offensive as it goes along that some viewers may explode from the dizzying speedball of self-loathing and euphoria.
Adapted by Patrick Marber (Closer) from Zoe Heller 's novel, Notes introduces a cunning old kitty cat early on, and then shovels mouse after mouse in her path.
Giving one of the flat-out best performances of the year, Dench plays Barbara Covett, a bitter teacher at a London high school. She notes the arrival of pretty, bohemian Sheba (Blanchett) with disdain. But she's soon fighting her own desire to get closer to her. When Sheba indulges in a shocking indiscretion, Barbara is ready to pounce.
Dench fully commits to a role not seen on screen since the late days of Bette Davis. Urged along by Marber's acerbic writing and surges of Philip Glass music, she summons up a rush of passion, venom and punishing intellect that is unstoppable.
Blanchett's not bad either. There is no juicier movie out there this season, but you may need a shower afterwards.