Talk about Safe Sex.
Maybe Richard Gere and Diane Lane would rather be safe than sorry as two wayward souls who try to save each other in Nights in Rodanthe, a weeper for the Middle Age Crazy set (and you know who you are).
This is the third pairing of Gere and Lane. They fought like immature newlyweds while dealing with danger and 1930s gangsters in 1984’s The Cotton Club, then portrayed unhappily married husband and wife in 2002’s Unfaithful, which earned Lane an Academy Award nomination as an unsatisfied woman who gets involved in a steamy affair with a young foreign hunk. Those roles for Gere and Lane obviously didn’t allow their characters to connect on an intense, emotional level.
Finally, the charming Gere and the lovely Lane are put under the right circumstances to heat up the screen (and the audience) in Nights in Rodanthe, a soap-sudsy drama based on a best-selling novel. Dr. Paul Flanner (Gere) is the lone guest for four nights at a North Carolina beach-side inn, and he eventually falls for Adrienne Willis (Lane).
This desperate housewife with a rebellious teenage daughter (is there any other kind?) and a geek of a son has been deserted by her philandering husband (Christopher Meloni) known as “Reptile Jack.” He soon begs her to allow him to come back home but she leaves them all behind (wouldn’t you?) to run the inn for her friend, Jean (Viola Davis, who gets all the best lines). While making dinner for Flanner for the first time, the sounds of blues legend Dinah Washington and the Big Band Era’s Count Basie fill the room. If this film is trying to appeal to old-timers, happy days are here again.
Gere and Lane, who are as beautiful as the coastal Carolina scenery, pass the chemistry test with flying colors. Gere, out of place as a Bob Dylan incarnation in 2007’s I’m Not There, is back on the romantic track while Lane, last seen in the unforgivable Untraceable, turns in her best performance since 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun.
They look incredible together, they play well off each other and they appear to be having a good time as damaged goods looking for love the second time around.
If only the sex were better. Granted, this is a PG-13 film, but when a hurricane threatens to rock the house, one expects the suave Gere and the luscious Lane to shake it up, too. After some sweet kisses and tender cuddles, they basically call it a night.
Is that all there is? Not quite. This is a romance, after all.
In one of the nicer early scenes that proves Lane isn’t just another pretty face, Adrienne tries to ease the pain after an angry phone conversation with her ex. She dances to some tunes she plays on an actual turntable (score another one for the AARP crowd), then joins Paul for several shots of Jack Daniel’s before deciding to clean house. Well, at least Jean’s pantry. Hanky-panky is out the question, though, when Adrienne decides she’s had enough fun for one evening. Boo-hoo.
Of course, the relationship eventually hits a rough patch as the two argue about whose life is worse and the wrong choices they have made. Adrienne runs out, the storm nears and the good doctor goes to the rescue.
Fortunately, he resists yelling, “Yo, Adrienne,” to win her back. Instead, he tells her, “Any man is a fool who doesn’t know how lucky he is to have you.”
The healing process begins. They shed a few tears (though it seems incredibly difficult to squeeze that one drop out of Gere), we shed a few tears. A better title for this movie would have been The Notebook for Grownups.
After returning to their families (Flanner reunites with his estranged son, played by James Franco), the couple find strength and solitude in the love letters they write each other. Didn’t they know about e-mail? Just think what they would have saved on postage.
At a jam-packed theater on September 16 in Westminster, Colorado, where they had to turn people away from a sneak preview, the audience was more than 80 percent women. If most of them were there for a good cry, they got it. But what about the ones breathlessly waiting for a hot summer night between the two hotties? Was it in the cards?
In a recent interview with Glamour magazine, Lane might have tipped her hand.
Sharing the September cover with Rachel Bilson and Ali Larter as part of a “Gorgeous at any age” feature, Lane is still “red-hot at 43,” but raises some eyebrows when discussing the sex factor in her film roles:
“It makes me very uncomfortable…. I tell my daughters, ‘That’s why they call it work, because it’s not what you’d prefer to do with your free time….’ I don’t want any more sex scenes on-screen. I’m done.”
So men now have a reason to be considered the "weaker sex." Go ahead, guys, break out the hankies for this one. Lane just gave all of us something to cry about.
Nights in Rodanthe
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.
Rated: PG-13, some sensuality.
Release date: September 26, 2008.
Leading roles:: Richard Gere (Dr. Paul Flanner), Diane Lane (Adrienne Willis).
Also appearing: Scott Glenn (Robert Torrelson), Christopher Meloni (Jack Willis), Viola Davis (Jean).
Director: George C. Wolfe makes his feature film debut, adding to an impressive list of credits in a theatrical career as a writer, director and producer.
Upcoming TV appearances
•Lane, on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on Monday, September 22.
•Lane, on Live with Regis and Kelly on Tuesday, September 23.
•Gere, on Live with Regis and Kelly on Wednesday, September 24.
•Gere and Lane, on The Bonnie Hunt Show on Thursday, Sept. 23.
What do you think? Is Diane Lane, as Glamour says, still red-hot at 43? What’s her best film since Unfaithful?
•Must Love Dogs
•Under the Tuscan Sun
Post your comments below.
Go here to see a trailer for Nights in Rodanthe.
Go here to read Diane Lane’s interview in the September issue of Glamour.