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Review: Lane, Gere are together again in lackluster "Nights in Rodanthe"

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Nights in Rodanthe

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Diane Lane (“A Little Romance,” “The Perfect Storm”) is the epitome of the All-American Beauty (Over 40 Division). Beautiful and talented, she’s still on Hollywood’s A-list of leading women. And, due in no small part to the success of 2002’s “Unfaithful”, it’s no wonder that producer Denise Di Novi and director George C. Wolfe cast her as unhappy housewife Adrienne Willis in 2008’s “Nights in Rodanthe.”

Adapted by Ann Peacock and John Romano from a novel by Nicholas Spark, “Nights in Rodanthe” is one of those overwrought and terribly predictable “romantic dramas” that tug at the audience’s heartstrings rather shamelessly but doesn’t have an interesting payoff.

In a predictable bit of stunt casting, Di Novi (who also produced the first “Nicholas Sparks” flick, "Message in a Bottle") reunites Lane with her “Unfaithful” co-star Richard Gere, who played the wronged husband to her adulterous Connie Summer.

In “Nights in Rodanthe”, Lane portrays Adrienne Willis, an attractive mother of two and the estranged wife to Jack Willis (Christopher Meloni). Kicked out of the house after he had an affair with another woman, Jack is trying to connive his way back into Adrienne’s life (and bed) by manipulating the feelings of their teenage daughter (Mae Whitman) and pre-teen son (Charlie Tahan).

On one of those bits of Hollywood serendipity, Adrienne is asked to “house sit” her friend Jean’s (Viola Davis) small bed and breakfast inn on the shore of Rodanthe, North Carolina on a weekend in which Jack takes the sullen teen daughter and sickly son on a trip to Walt Disney World. Jean is desperate for help because she needs to go on a business trip and there is one guest on his way to the B & B.

That guest is Dr. Paul Flanner (Gere), a somewhat taciturn surgeon who is in Rodanthe to be, as he tells Adrienne when he signs in, “by myself.” (Yet, he also wants someone to talk to. Go figure.)

So far, so good, right? This setup is not too bad, because up until now the situation is, despite some predictability, believable. Two reasonably attractive but emotionally injured adults in a somewhat isolated yet romantic location (Jean’s B & B by the sea) who are bound, by the laws of romantic movie physics, to fall in love, or at least romantically tinged lust.

Screenwriters Peacock and Romano (and, I assume, novelist Sparks) haven’t really thought things through as far as certain details go, and this is where “Nights in Rodanthe” veers from plausible-if-slightly-overwrought to the comically inept.

For instance, the inevitable romantic sequence at the B & B takes place during a major hurricane (evoking "The Perfect Storm"). It boggles the mind, but as a guy who has gone through at least four hurricanes since 1992, I found myself wondering why:

A) The storm has no name

B) Despite warnings, Paul and Adrienne don’t evacuate

C) The B & B is built at the water’s edge

D) There’s no sign of an eye if the storm passes directly overhead

E) How the heck Paul and Adrienne can have sex during a hurricane

There are several interconnected subplots here, of course, that explain why Paul went to Rodanthe in the first place, and there is also the question of how Adrienne will have to solve her family issues after the obligatory return to her domestic reality. Some of them are nicely handled and give “Nights in Rodanthe” some emotional depth. Others are too calculated to make tear ducts work overtime and the audience grab for multiple Kleenex tissues while avoiding the scrutiny of basic logical thinking.

Though both Gere and Lane acquit themselves pretty well, the lameness of the script and the implausibility of the plot sinks "Nights in Rodanthe" faster than that iceberg caused the Titanic to founder. You’d think someone in Di Novi’s retinue would tell the boss that her movie has some serious plot holes, not the least of which is that seemingly hurricane-proof B & B on that beach.

The film’s denouement is also irritating, and not just because if the viewer has been paying attention he or she can spot it 45 minutes ahead of time. It’s also too reminiscent of a 1970s Movie of the Week on TV ending, Even the sex scene during the Big Anonymous Storm is done in that “tease but don’t show” which is typical of TV movies.

Fans of "Message in a Bottle" and ‘The Notebook” might still like this film, and perhaps that’s what Di Novi was counting on, but “Nights in Rodanthe” should be avoided like that B & B on the beach when the hurricane warning flags are flying.

Blu-ray Specs:

  • Format: Blu-ray, Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 10, 2009
  • Run Time: 97 minutes

Special Features

  • Exclusive features via BD-Live
  • Alternate scenes with director commentary
  • The Nature of Love: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, and director George C. Wolfe recall what attracted them to this story and remember their favorite movie romances
  • A Time for Love: Keeping Up with Nicholas Sparks
  • An Intimate Look at In Rodanthe with singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris
  • Gavin Rossdale "Love Remains the Same" music video
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