Nights in Rodanthe

Movie Information

The Story: An unhappy wife and a doctor with issues share the experience of surviving a hurricane in a beach house and fall in love, but can happiness be possible for them? The Lowdown: Nice to look at and certainly well made and performed, the film is, at bottom, absurdly plotted and never as affecting as it means to be.
Score:

Genre: Romantic Drama
Director: George C. Wolfe
Starring: Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis, Scott Glenn, James Franco
Rated: PG-13

Nights in Rodanthe never reaching the end … no, wait, that’s something else. Still, there are moments in the final scenes of Rodanthe that certainly seem like they’ll never reach the end. No mean feat for a 97-minute movie. Nights in Rodanthe is soap, unalloyed 99 and 44/100 percent pure soap. And though it’s fairly classy soap—and while there’s nought wrong with soap—this one just misses the mark. It’s beautifully photographed, beautifully art directed, creatively directed and nicely acted. But then there’s the story, the screenplay and the musical score, which are far less happy considerations.

Let’s start with the story, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. I’ve never read one of Sparks’ books, but after seeing the film versions of A Walk to Remember (2002), The Notebook (2004) and now this, I’m not planning on changing that. The stories and characters don’t in themselves engage me. And to the degree that any of these films have worked on me in the manner intended (i.e., as an assault on my tear ducts), it wasn’t through the material itself, but the innate appeal of some of the performers involved. That’s certainly true here. I didn’t give a damn about the principal characters, Adrienne Willis and Dr. Paul Flanner, who are nothing but ridiculous cardboard constructs. Their humanity—and the only emotional connection I had with them—stems from the innate sympathy I felt for the screen personas of the actors who play them, Diane Lane and Richard Gere.

The story is a nonsensical setup of more than passing preposterousness. Adrienne is a deserted wife with two children who are so obnoxious that a sane woman would trade them in for a pair of cast-iron lawn deer. Errant hubby—played with maximum smarminess by Christopher Meloni (TV’s Oz)—whines, pleads, wheedles and manipulates Adrienne in an attempt to be allowed to come home (maybe he should watch Fireproof for tips on how to mend a marriage?). Adrienne makes plans to go “inn sit” for her friend Jean (Viola Davis, Disturbia) on the Outer Banks—plans she sticks to despite the fact that there’s a threat of a hurricane and the inn in question is right on the beach. That she goes is remarkable enough. That her sole guest, Dr. Flanner, shows up is more remarkable still.

What follows is utterly predictable—that is until it goes all bittersweet and becomes utterly ridiculous. Everything is painfully set up and contrived (so when will those much-discussed wild ponies appear?), while almost none of it seems even passingly real. In its favor, however, the movie looks good and the stars are appealing. Director George C. Wolfe, best known for stage work, either surrounded himself with an ace crew, or is one of those stage directors who delights in the chances film affords to go beyond what’s possible on stage. Now, whether the look, the stars and the direction offset the story, the awkward dialogue and quite probably the worst musical score (by Jeanine Tesori) I’ve ever heard on a professionally made film (lots of pointless guitar and piano noodling that’s not even really music) is an issue you might want to debate carefully before committing to Nights in Rodanthe as your viewing choice. Rated PG-13 for some sensuality.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

4 thoughts on “Nights in Rodanthe

  1. clkwrkred

    Well, if anybody wants to see Diane Lane again this may be their last chance. Rumor is it’s her last movie. A shame really, never thought she reached her potential.

  2. Bob Voorhees

    KH’s comments on “Nights” seem apposite to me. I thought the emotional manipulation was almost laughable, the maukishness nearly palpable.
    I’d add that it seemed to me, more than any flick I remember, a film about faces, about almost disembodied faces. Even in the one tame love scene the focus was on the faces. Hands on faces. Faces purring love’s cliches and inanities. The camera really liked the two main ones. Gere semms to me close to Nicholson in his love of mugging for the camera, and Lane’s face, while not beautiful, is attractive in a somewhat conventional manner. Lane spends much of her camera time registering a variety of emotions in her facial responses: exasperation at her kids (indeed, KH, the girl deserved to be stuffed in the nearest closet, and the boy’s face registered beautifully the numbness that many young children-of-divorce experience). The face of the mourning husband was mesmerizing. I don’t know the actor’s name but I remember that striking, craggy face from “Apocolypse” and “Training Day”. The son’s face registered his animosity perfectly.
    The horse scene was hokey beyond belief, and yes, it had to be at the end as I fully expected. Horses DO have beautiful, sensitive faces.

  3. Ken Hanke

    The horse scene was hokey beyond belief, and yes, it had to be at the end as I fully expected.

    Ah, but if they’d trampled her or even if she’d done an Anna Karenina with them, then they’d have had something!

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