Nights in Rodanthe
2008, PG-13, 97 min. Directed by George C. Wolfe. Starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Viola Davis, James Franco, Christopher Meloni, Scott Glenn, Becky Ann Baker.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 26, 2008
When it comes to movies about tragic love affairs, it’s all about the waterworks – they don’t call them weepies for nothing. The sadder the story, the higher the hanky count. Although contemporary audiences still like a good cry, the romantic ideal of doomed romance has changed over the years. Grand gestures such as throwing oneself in front of a train have given way to more accessible notions of star-crossed love such as Nights in Rodanthe, a flawed but occasionally affecting film about second chances and third acts. Based on the Nicholas Spark novel about the brief encounter between a troubled surgeon (Gere) and a lonely woman (Lane) at a secluded inn on Hatteras Island, the film does justice to the belief that love comes at you when you least expect it. The frustrating thing about Nights in Rodanthe, however, is how it seemingly undermines itself at every turn. For every one step forward it takes in scenes that tellingly depict the way people navigate the thrill of mutual attraction, it takes two steps backward in others in which dramatic moments are fabricated simply for the sake of a little noise apart from the sound of people talking to one another. A shouting match during the onset of a hurricane hasn’t an inkling of real emotion despite all its bluster; it’s as if the film distrusts its ability to draw us into the developing relationship between its principal characters on the merits of love alone. Of course, once the two lovers converge and the obligatory sex scene is performed (watching close-ups of actors undulating on top of each other has become a true movie cliché), Nights in Rodanthe enters familiar three-hanky territory that is nearly redeemed by the compelling presence of Lane as a woman reborn. (Gere usually disappears when they’re on the screen together.) Her remarkable performance – particularly the way she comes to life and transforms into a confident, sexualized human being – is what makes this movie watchable. Lane might strike some as a bit actressy, but she knows how to pull it off in an almost self-effacing way. Though the film doesn’t do her justice in the final reels as it struggles to give us something to cry about, Lane gives you something real and heartfelt. Nights in Rodanthe may not be the best chick flick around, but it’s the flick with the best chick by far.