Nights in Rodanthe

2008-12-12 10:08
Nights at the Rondathe
What it's about:

Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) is a conflicted mother of two, under pressure to take back her cheating husband. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) is a doctor on his way to reconnecting with his estranged surgeon son in Ecuador. They share one passion-filled, hurricane-ravaged weekend in Rodanthe, North Carolina, when Paul checks in at the seaside inn Adrienne is minding as a favour to her best friend. Based on the novel by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks (who also wrote The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember).

What we thought of it:

Slush puppy romances are becoming a bit of a relic in this age of more youthful and light-hearted romantic dramatisations. These days, romance is usually packaged as a testosterone-charged comedy (Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin), the story of the hapless SWF (single white female) who just can't seem to fall for the right guy (27 Dresses, whatever Kate Hudson did last) or the one about the happily single guy who never knew the thing he's been missing all this time was the love of a good woman (Failure to Launch, Wedding Crashers).

It’s rare to find a movie that works elegantly to bring together the ideal elements for their two dashing leads to meet and fall in love. And in Richard Gere and Diane Lane we certainly have the perfect pair to portray people who have separately lived full lives, and get the chance to start over together when their respective marriages fall apart.

But anyone looking for a repeat of the sultry vulnerability that made Gere and Lane so striking in Unfaithful, their previous collaboration (for which Lane was Oscar-nominated), will be sorely disappointed by this damp squib of a script.

As the story plods along, very soon it becomes clear what this movie is trying to achieve, and once that's accomplished, The movie becomes an exercise in watching paint dry. When Adrienne and Paul's blissful weekend in Rodanthe comes to an end, Paul flies off to the jungles of South America to reconcile with his son Mark (in a curiously uncredited performance by James Franco) who has set up a clinic there. They then continue their relationship through a series of sappy love letters that read like lines taken from a Mills & Boon paperback.

Before long you're dying for something to just happen already. And when it does, you wish they hadn’t bothered as the conclusion feels forced and manipulative.

Lane is an arresting screen presence, whose grace and maturity is a pleasure to watch. She plays Adrienne with strength and conviction, and her performance will certainly tug at certain pliable heartstrings out there, but a script so cliché-ridden only works against her best efforts.

Fans of movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks' previous work (The Notebook being the most memorable of the bunch) will know what to expect, but for anyone who enjoys their schmaltz with a dash of wit and humour will feel cheated by Nights in Rodanthe.

- Shaheema Barodien

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Two picture-perfect leads and an even more picturesque setting can't save this tired and cliché-ridden romantic drama from disintegrating into sleep-inducing schmaltz. Must try harder.

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