I love movies, all sorts of movies. Sure, there are genres I am attracted to more than others and actors/directors I am more attracted to, not to mention only so much time I can squeeze them all into. Nights in Rodanthe turned out to be one of those movies that had performers I liked, but was in a genre that does not generally rise to the top of my must see now list. But here it is, there I was, ready to give it a shot, not knowing if I would like it or not, but determined to give it a shot.
Now my screening is in the past, I have had some time to sit with my thoughts, and here I will attempt to share them with you. I say share because I am still in the process of discovering where I fall with regard to this movie.
Nights in Rodanthe is probably the purest, straight-up romance I have seen in some time. Sure, there have been other romantic films in recent memory, but most of them either had the word "comedy" attached to them or romance was just one element of the bigger whole. The closest thing I can think of to a pure romance that I have seen is Definitely, Maybe, and even that had a gimmick attached to it. There is also last year's Lake House, but again it had a gimmick that diluted the purity of the romance. Of course, I actually like both of those films better than Nights in Rodanthe.
My experience with this film was a conflicted one. As I sat there watching it, I was convinced I liked what I saw. In the time since the credits began to roll, I am not quite so sure that I liked it as much as I thought I did. Now, I never thought it was a great film, but that sure feeling of solidity began to slowly slip away, and now I am left thinking the film was all right, but nothing particularly special, and even a bit manipulative.
Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) is a mother of two, separated from her cheat of a husband (Christopher Meloni), and all set to take care of a small inn on an island off the North Carolina coast for a friend. Taking care of the inn seems like a simple enough thing, but it isn't. To get her ready for her lonely stay at the inn, she is saddled with her husband wanting to come home and a daughter whose rebelliousness is sure to drive anyone insane (or to drink).
To complement her taking care of the inn, there is the single guest who booked a room to be alone while he finds a certain someone he needs to talk to (a man played by Scott Glenn). The man is Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), a troubled surgeon whose estranged son runs a medical clinic on a mountain in Ecuador. Guess where Flanner will soon be headed?
So, we have two damaged individuals placed in a secluded, romantic getaway, a storm bearing down, and plenty of time for them to get close and bond over a bottle of Jack. Essentially, a perfect storm of coincidental cliches was put together that allowed these two to get close and romance to bloom.
The screenplay, by Ann Peacock and John Romano (based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks), is amazingly shallow. It is almost like all traces of genuine character development, story, and plot all boiled away during the rewrite process, leaving behind the bare minimums required for the romance. Everything else is extraneous fluff, unnecessary to further the story. That is, unless you want a more complete story. Seriously, there is so little here to grab onto that in retrospect, I am surprised I thought I enjoyed it as much as I did. Story points, weather, and character changes happen so fast that they seem to be more an afterthought, or merely there to further the central plot rather than reinforce or expand on it.
Upon further reflection, I have to realize just why I feel as duped as I do. It has to do with the performances of Richard Gere and Diane Lane. The two of them are genuine stars, charismatic, and completely magnetic on the screen. They take the material and deliver it in such a way that you very nearly forget the weakness of the tale all around them. The two sink their teeth into their roles, never taking them too far over the top, but drawing you in and focusing your attention. As a side note, Scott Glenn and James Franco cannot be forgotten, while their screen time is very limited they are quite effective in their supporting performances.
Bottom line. So, in the end, I have not become disillusioned completely with this film, there still is much to like (primarily those performances), but it is not a fulfilling movie. There is so much room for a solid story, so many holes that should have been filled before it unspooled on theater screens. Oh well, watch, enjoy, cry, try not to think about it too hard.