Appellate Judge James A. Stewart survived his first Lifetime movie.
"Why do you think you were called here, Mr. Fitzpatrick?"
Editor's Note: This is a WalMart exclusive DVD release, available only in stores and at NoraRoberts.com.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard when I mentioned to a couple of people that I was reviewing Nora Roberts' Midnight Bayou. I'd run into a movie that a few people have actually seen—and liked. Of course, that pleasant surprise was short-lived, since no one I talked to could actually remember the movie that ran earlier this year on Lifetime as part of a festival of the bestselling romance author's works. The four movies are now out on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Did Declan Fitzpatrick (Jerry O'Connell, Sliders) just see a woman in the road? Who knows? He and college buddy Remy have been celebrating Mardi Gras all day, and it's late. They've stopped in front of Manet Hall, which Remy says has "very bad ju-ju." Naturally, Declan loves the place: "I've gotta have it rented. Just tell me where to send the check—and how much."
Eight years later, New Orleans has had a hurricane, and Declan's in town to provide legal aid to struggling residents. He's also in town to buy Manet Hall. Restaurant owner Lena Simone (Lauren Stamile, Grey's Anatomy) reluctantly brings over a welcome basket—and sparks fly. Standing in the way of true love are her abandonment issues and the strange visions Declan is having when alone in his new home. Lena's psychic grandmother Odette (Faye Dunaway, Network) wants to help Declan sort out his visions and her granddaughter's issues.
As a New Orleans travelogue Midnight Bayou does a good job, showing street performers, trees popping out of swamps, the sun rising on the water, and a haunted manor that's beautiful rather than eerie. It also shows the Katrina devastation that remains years later, which adds character to the movie without looking too heavy handed. Needless to say, all of this looks good on DVD.
The story about reincarnation isn't quite as memorable, but as a metaphor for Lena's romantic and life disappointments, something I suspect Nora Roberts developed more in her novel, it works well enough. The leads are good-looking and likable, even if Lauren Stamile's bayou accent is both overdone and suspect, and Jerry O'Connell occasionally sounds more irritated than fascinated or frightened by his strange visions.
Some of you might be looking for bedroom or deliriously ridiculous scenes. There's only one bedroom scene, but it turns out to be the most deliriously ridiculous scene in the movie. Declan has one of his visions and promptly faints. When he wakes up, Lena suddenly wants to rip his—and her—clothes off and hop into bed with him. The burst of violence at the end, flashing between past and present with reincarnation and ghostly possession involved, could fall into the ridiculous category—or just be confusing.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While Midnight Bayou isn't bad—even with a couple of goofy scenes—there's nothing compelling, if you aren't already a Nora Roberts fan. You might as well just wait to catch it on cable when it turns up again.
If you are a Nora Roberts fan, you'll want to see Midnight Bayou, but it's likely you've already caught it on television, and there's nothing in the way of commentary, interviews, or behind-the-scenes extras on this release.
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