Title: Nights in Rodanthe
Play time: 1h 37min
Director: George C. Wolfe
Screenwriters: Ann Peacock, John Romano
Starring: Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Christopher Meloni
Okay, look: everybody has got to stop crying. I can’t handle this. The characters in the obscenely weepy Nights in Rodanthe start leaking tears at the slightest provocation. They are constantly overwhelmed with emotion and we’re supposed to be too, but it just isn’t possible. No self-respecting moviegoer is this easily manipulated. Right? Right?
Sparks Adaptations – Nights in Rodanthe
This is standard for Nights author Nicholas Sparks, the reigning king of the hankiefest. I am not inexorably opposed to Sparks adaptations. In fact, I rather liked Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook, an appropriately sweeping tale of young love that boasted two fantastic lead performances. That film, at least, had a mode or two other than “painfully self-serious,” and the characters occasionally wore their hearts somewhere besides their sleeves. And it had somewhat of a tonal justification for its maudlin tendencies, since it was self-consciously a “timeless,” iconic story. Nights in Rodanthe is just painful: a soap opera scrubbed clean of nuance or any emotion not writ 100 feet wide.
Adrienne (Diane Lane) is a recently separated mother of two who temporarily takes over a North Carolina bed-and-breakfast owned by her best friend (Viola Davis). A hurricane is coming and the house sits right on the beach, with the water lapping its wooden stairs even in calm seas. But no matter: one guest is coming, and paying double, so Adrienne must must housesit. With friends like these…
Summary, Cast and Everything Else
The guest is Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), a plastic surgeon who’s come to plead with a local (Scott Glenn) who filed a malpractice suit after his wife died on Flanner’s operating table. Flanner’s wife has left him, and he’s estranged from his son (an uncredited James Franco), who runs a free clinic in Ecuador. As the rain whips the house and the wind starts to roar, Paul and Adrienne hit it off, and do they ever. There are enough shots of their passionate embraces for you to begin to suspect that their attraction is literally magnetic. At one point they part and Paul sets off in his convertible, ostensibly to pay a visit to his son in Ecuador (the most important thing, they both agree). But no: the camera swings around and we see that Paul has ditched the car and is hoofing it back to Adrienne for another smooch. The music swells again as they embrace center-screen, and I wondered: just how many swoons does first-time director George C. Wolfe think he can extort from us in a span of a half hour?
Paul and Adrienne are apart for the rest of the film, so that, thankfully, is pretty much the end of that. Their separation does not prevent Paul from sending Adrienne long, flowery love letters, though, and rest assured that he reads most of them out loud for our benefit. Indeed, this is the kind of movie where every communication between the characters is either: 1) a passionate love letter; 2) an earnest, sentimental speech (preferably involving profound-sounding non sequiturs, such as the widower demanding that Dr. Paul tell him what color his wife’s eyes were); or 3) a sincere heart-to-heart.
Cheap Sentiment and Mired Story in Cliche
Bored to tears (though, with apologies to Sparks and Wolfe, not literally), I looked for something to latch onto, and realized that I would have preferred a movie about any of the bit players: Scott Glenn’s depressed malpractice plaintiff, Viola Davis’s smartalecky best friend, or James Franco’s do-gooder son. Maybe it’s because Glenn, Davis and Franco are each more interesting than Lane and Gere combined (sorry, but those two need good material to be remotely compelling). Or maybe it’s because the A-story is so mired in cliche and cheap sentiment that the sidelines seem fascinating by comparison.
I should mention that the movie isn’t even technically workmanlike; the feverish cutting between close-ups during the aforementioned heart-to-hearts made my head spin. I make no bones about being easily manipulated — it’s why I go to the movies — so maybe a slicker Nights in Rodanthe would have met with a less cynical response. As it stands, this is graceless, saccharine, artificial stuff, aimed at the most uncritical “chick flick” consumers. Are Sparks’ novels like this?