Appearing on all four best/worst/male/female lists this year is Nick Cassavetes' 2004 tear-jerking romantic drama The Notebook, starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as not so much star-crossed lovers but mildly inconvenienced soulmates who meet, fall in love, break up, are kept apart by the machinations of her snobby parents and eventually find their way back to one another. Not the most original story, but a pretty surefire recipe for some hanky-panky after the credits roll.
Ah, but not so fast. If you haven't seen the film, be warned that spoilers follow.
The framing device for this period romance is a modern-day friendship between Gena Rowlands and James Garner. She's in a nursing facility battling Alzheimer's disease, and he reads to her from the titular notebook, the love story of young and impulsive Ryan Gosling and the also young and feisty Rachel McAdams.
As the story in the past reaches its romantic climax, she is stirred from the depths of her illness to a sudden revelation: She was Rachel McAdams! He was Ryan Gosling! And they'd lived happily ever after, and had beautiful children and grandchildren together! And then she got Alzheimer's and now he reads to her from her written record of the story, and when he finishes, she remembers him for a brief period of time, and then sinks back into dementia, and he starts all over again the next day.
It's kind of sweet, but also kind of a turn-off and a bummer. To say nothing of the coda of the film, in which Garner has a heart attack, leaves his hospital bed to visit Rowlands in the psychiatric ward and, following tearful reminiscences, crawls in bed next to her, where they both die holding hands. Truly, this is an erotic masterpiece to rival the last 15 minutes of Terms of Endearment.
The deciding factor in favor of the film would seem to be Ryan Gosling. He makes another appearance on this year's sex survey, being the No. 1 male celebrity fantasy sex partner for both women and men. In the film he plays the hunky-but-poor suitor to McAdams' rich girl with a heart of gold. He never gives up on her, even going so far as to spend all his time rebuilding a decrepit old mansion in the hopes that it will win her back. This is the key to the film's romantic appeal. Love conquers all, and is passionate, devoted and everlasting. Even in sickness and death, Ryan Gosling will stay by your side (though he may end up looking like James Garner).
If you can get past the fears of failing health and mortality, and all the balled-up tissues and tear-stained cheeks, it just might be your ticket to a night of wild, youthful co-ed sex. You should be warned, however, that statistically you have a better chance of scoring if you throw on some porn, which ranked equal to The Notebook on the gets-me-in-the-mood-o-meter among men, and beat it by 3 percentage points among women. Yes, you read that right: Women prefer porn over a romantic comedy starring Ryan Gosling.