HOLLYWOOD POV: "Nights in Rodanthe"

Filed in Gather Entertainment News Channel by on September 25, 2008 0 Comments

When you reach a certain age and your realize that your life just didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, you try to understand how the choices you made changed the life you wanted to make for yourself in the first place. So many things get in the way. Marriage, children, love, family, thoughtfulness, caring…these are things that can make your life wonderful or make it painful and chaotic. 

When your husband cheats on you with a much younger woman… and then leaves you for her, you have a choice to make. You can stay and tough it out for the kids, or leave with your integrity intact. There’s no correct choice to make except the one choice that feels right for you.  In NIGHTS IN RODANTHE Diane Lane plays the wife who is left to care for her two kids alone while her husband enjoys his midlife crises with his much younger lover. Why anyone would leave the perfect woman Diane Lane’s character appears to be is beyond explanation, other than to blame it on the old midlife crises standby.

Just like any woman who has been left for someone else, Adrienne Willis’ (Diana Lane) life is spinning out of control. She takes the opportunity to retreat for a long weekend at her friend Jean’s (Viola Davis) lovely, but rickety, guest house on the beach in the small seaside village of Rodanthe, the most northern village of the inhabited areas of the barrier island of Hatteras Island in North Carolina.

Adrienne is looking for some peace and quiet to rethink the conflicts surrounding her – her cheating husband who has asked to come home, and her teenage daughter who resents her every move. As Adrienne gets to Rodanthe she learns that a major storm is forecast. Jean leaves Adrienne to care for her guest house while she travels for work, and Adrienne is left alone in the house that is almost sitting right in the ocean it’s that close to the high tide water line.

The Inn’s only guest arrives for the weekend with his own set of lifetime baggage.  Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) is not on a weekend escape. Flanner is there to face his own crisis of conscience which the story eventually clarifies for us.

Sophisticated movie-goers will be waiting for something to go wrong and at first you might think it is the approaching storm… but you would be wrong. The storm is fierce, and the shutters flap around and the house seems as if it might be listing to one side. But all is safe. Especially the blooming love affair between the two stars. It’s hard to believe that two people can form such a close attachment over one magical weekend, but hey, the story is adapted from a Nicholas Sparks book after all, so you just know the two will fall in love…just as you know something bad will happen to keep the two apart.

Gere is wonderful as always, and Lane is an excellent foil and completely believable as a loving and caring wife and mother wildly in love for the first time in her life, but something is missing. There is little chemistry between the two, even though one might want to look at Richard Gere forever. It’s hard to believe the life-changing relationship that develops between the two, though it’s nostalgic to listen to the many letters they write back and forth to each other while Flanner is in Mexico working with his slightly estranged doctor son. It’s nostalgic because I can’t remember the last time anyone I know has written a letter to anyone or received a letter from anyone. Why weren’t they emailing, skyping, and youtubing their affections to each other? Okay, okay, Flanner is working in the jungles of Mexico with poor indigent Indians who can’t afford health care. But he has a car, and he is able to mail the many letters so he must be getting into town. And if there’s a town and a post office then there’s got to be an internet cafe.

You will have time to think about all this because the film moves at a glacial pace, which forced me to think that Nicholas Sparks’ book of the same title, from which this story came, must have been a novella. Of course, most of Sparks’s books are short romantic tales that always involve love, the loss of love, tragedy, fate, and often Christianity. This is Sparks’s fourth book to have been made into a film, the others being Message in a Bottle (1999), A Walk to Remember (2002), and The Notebook (2004).

Director George C. Wolfe has a short list of films to his credit, with his most noticeable work being in TV with the MFTV Lackawanna Blues (2005) for which he won an Emmy and DGA Award for direction. Much of Wolfe’s work has been for the Broadway stage which might help to explain the feeling of distance the audience has from the characters in NIGHTS IN RODANTHE.   

The few NIGHTS IN RODANTHE that Paul Flanner and Adrienne Willis spend together could have held a lot more passion and interest for the audience, but the director was clearly not able to bring more intimacy to the project. But their coming together sets in motion a life-changing romance that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives. It just won’t be resonating in the audience’s life any time soon.

The best part of the film comes at the end when we see a herd of wild ponies – the descendents of horses that were on ships lost at sea and who then swam long distances to find this deserted barrier island retreat. The wild ponies might bring a tear to your eye as it did to mine, but my tear (and it was a tear, not tears) was for the loss of our natural environment and horses running wild on the beach, not for the lost love of NIGHTS IN RODANTHE. The lost love in NIGHTS was telegraphed so loudly to the audience that I spent almost 45 minutes waiting for the shoe to drop…or the mud to slide, as it did here.

Scott Glenn has a small cameo with two scenes and it’s scary to see how hard he has aged, if you see the film try to remember that only there is only 8 years in age difference between Gere and Glenn. Perhaps it’s Gere’s involvement in Zen Buddhism that has kept him looking so fantastic. If that’s the case maybe I should rethink my atheism.

This movie’s demographic is the same as the Hilary Clinton demo; women over 50. So if you’re female, over 50, Christian, believe in fate and soul mates you will most likely enjoy this bit of fluff. But beware, the insider audience I saw this film with laughed out loud as the credits rolled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2008 by Digital Dogs~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  
Digital Dogs rating: B

MPAA rating: PG-13 for some sensuality.

Running Times: 97 Minutes

Producers Alison Greenspan, Doug Claybourne, Dana Goldberg, Director George Wolfe, Screenplay Ann Peacock, John Romano, from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, DP Alfonso Beato, Editor Brain A. Kates, Music Jeanine Tesori, Actors Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis, Mae Whitman, Scott Glenn, James Franco

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 Digital Dogs, Gather Movies Correspondent – Los Angeles
Digital Dogs’ column, HOLLYWOOD POV, published every Thursday to Gather Essentials: Movies is an insider’s look at the art, people, and product of Hollywood.

Digital Dogs is an opinionated writer, editor, and digital designer who lives and works in the Entertainment Capital of the world. DigiDogs’ unique reviews are usually written well before a film’s release date, and definitely worth the advance look at the films that influence the world.

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