To call Notes on a Scandal a ‘thriller,’ as many have done, is to strike close to the reasons for which I found it largely unsatisfying as a piece of cinematic work. While decently acted, the story just couldn’t justify the drama that the producers tried to spin around the story. It turned out more like an example of amplified tabloidism, rendered a bit surreal through the inappropriate Philip Glass soundtrack (though my sense that the music made the plot seem trivial may derive from how I associate Glass inescapably with the bombing scenes in The Fog of War).
While the film was not without interesting elements – how a narrator can both be exceptionally aware of the workings of the world around her and profoundly ignorant of how others perceive her – they are ultimately not enough to redeem it as a piece of storytelling. If you’re going to make a film about people violating societal taboos, they ought not be so wishy-washy about it. Nobody wants an uncommitted, neurotic villain, nor one with no particular artfulness through which to be redeemed.