Warner Bros. // 2008 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 10th, 2009
Dr. Paul Flanner: We all make choices, Adrienne. You chose that life, you
chose that man. Now you're going back to it. Do you even remember who you really
Adrienne Willis: Just stop it. Just stop it!
It sounded like a great idea to reteam Richard Gere and Diane Lane, who starred together in Unfaithful, and throw in a script based on a novel from the same guy who wrote The Notebook. Nights in Rodanthe is a weepy romance that comes to DVD without much to support it. Basically, if you like the stars, then this one is worth checking out for some gorgeous people in pretty places. Yet if you're not a big, sappy, sentiment fan, then leave this one on the shelf. It's great to see Gere and Lane back on the screen, but you wish they could have found something more substantial than this soap opera to get them back together. It's a love letter to traditional romance where people meet, then write each other for months, and have to decide how to proceed. It's a clichéd story, but there are fans of this style of entertainment.
Two damaged people meet at an abandoned seaside inn as a hurricane approaches. Adrienne (Diane Lane) is a woman trying to move on after her husband cheated, but she struggles whether or not to return to the marriage for the sake of the kids. She has come to run the spectacular boarding house for a friend who left the business with disastrous weather in the forecast. She has come to grapple with big decisions. Paul (Richard Gere) is a doctor who must wrestle with his own issues which remain mysterious for the sake of the thin plot. They fall in love, but then have to separate as Paul goes looking for his estranged son. Much letter writing ensues, and we are left to see if they end up together after all this drama.
Nights in Rodanthe is not a great movie, but the stars do manage to keep the whole thing afloat for the hour and a half that drifts by. Richard Gere and Diane Lane make a great couple, and it's hard not to admire the easy charm they ooze. You end up rooting for them to get together, even though longtime fans knew this was a charismatic couple since they both appeared in The Cotton Club. The two make this cheesy script work to a degree. They look great with the sea winds blowing through their hair, and both bring their signature tricks that rope people in. Gere looks tortured while squinting, and Lane opens up her eyes bigger to express her angst. They are sensual and striking when they come together, and good lighting makes it even more pleasing.
Other than the actors, there's not much here to admire. The film is directed by a Broadway genius, George C. Wolfe, making his silver screen debut. He has the right cast, a great location, but not much in the way of a script which means everything goes in predictable directions. The two lovers write letters in the big climax, and these consist of what equates to emotional pornography. They ask again and again, "Was it the wine? Was it the storm? Was it you? Was it me?" Eventually you may just want to scream "Get over all of this!" The film works if you just roll with the punches and ride out the tempest of silly contrivance. I mean, would we ever wonder if these two will get together? It's as inevitable as nature, and everything else is just debris from the big storm. There are many big storms though, and the film does manage to pack a punch here and there.
Video and sound are okay, although it's merely standard stuff for a film this recent. The transfer is competent, but I found it lacking with a BluRay release scheduled simultaneously. Oddly there are no extras on the DVD which is a flipper disc featuring both a widescreen and full-screen version of the feature. Warner Brothers has not given this title anything more than a basic release, almost as if to say the studio knows this one is what it is and needs no help or explanation. It's a no frills release. Not much to say other than you get the film on DVD, and that's the long and short of it.
Smart actors in a dumb story can almost save it...almost. Nights in Rodanthe is a film that banks on the stars and a hokey romance to pull you in. It might work if you like middle aged romances starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, who are always interesting to watch. The story feels like it slows down when they start writing each other, but at least the storm sequences work extremely well early on in the story. Warner Bros. seems to know it has a middling release and offers nothing other than the full-screen and widescreen versions of the film on DVD. There are no extras, and no real reason to stick around once the credits roll.
Guilty of being a sudsy soap opera romance, this film is sentenced to finding
its stars a real script.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13