With powerhouse acting talent like Oscar winners Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, it's tempting to ascribe deeper meaning and importance to "Notes on a Scandal." But to do so would deny the lurid, trashy appeal of this fiendish psychological thriller.
Dench is riveting as Barbara Covett, a spinsterish London schoolteacher who nurses an unhealthy interest in the newest teacher: a young, attractive mess named Sheba Hart (Blanchett). The two become fast friends, but it grows complicated when Barbara discovers that the married Sheba is having an affair with a 15-year-old boy. The old woman's outrage is mitigated by her realization that the knowledge gives her considerable clout over Sheba.
A sharp-toothed script by Patrick Marber ("Closer") gives Dench and Blanchett plenty of room to shine, but it's Dench who clearly has the most fun as the twisted, sexually repressed schoolmarm. The DVD's bonus material includes a moderately interesting making-of featurette and commentary by director Richard Eyre.