Combustible Celluloid
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With: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis, Becky Ann Baker, Scott Glenn, Linda Molloy, Pablo Schreiber, Mae Whitman, Charlie Tahan, Carolyn McCormick, Ted Manson
Written by: Ann Peacock, John Romano, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks
Directed by: George C. Wolfe
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sensuality
Running Time: 97
Date: 09/26/2008

Nights in Rodanthe (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Jeepers Weepers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In Nights in Rodanthe Diane Lane stars as Adrienne Willis, a frazzled single mother with a young son and a teenage daughter; the latter has just begun talking back and expressing her universal disdain for everything her mother does. Adrienne's no-good husband (Christopher Meloni), who, we learn, has had an affair, arrives to pick up the kids so that Adrienne can go help her happy-go-lucky pal Jean (Viola Davis, playing a typical movie "best friend") look after a sexy, beach-side North Carolina hotel during its off-season. Unfortunately, the husband now wants to get back together.

Confused Adrienne arrives at the hotel, which is decorated head-to-foot in all kinds of colored, tinkly bric-a-brac and prepares for its one and only guest. Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) is a doctor struggling with a dark secret, and who has arrived for an equally mysterious errand. The attractive duo eventually warm up to one another and talk, but their dark secrets get in the way. Meanwhile, a huge storm threatens to blow away everything that isn't nailed down. I guess it's not too hard to guess what happens next.

Movies like Nights in Rodanthe are beyond reviewing, because intellectually analyzing them cancels out their intended effect. This is a weepie, pure and simple. If you're the type that likes crying at the movies, you'll love it. If you loved Richard Gere and Diane Lane together in a thriller like Unfaithful (2002) but you don't like to cry, you probably won't like it. Me, I found a few things to like and much to loathe.

Diane Lane goes a long way toward making the film work. She's perfectly at home inside this material (as she usually is in any material, bless her), and her emotional openness and ease carry us through some of the clunkier passages. However, rookie director George C. Wolfe, who comes from television, fails to direct Gere with the same touch; Gere seems to overshoot his lines, always aiming too high, as if unsure of his character's responses. This split continues across the film; the music selection is good (Dinah Washington!) and the set design seems right, but the tone, the editing and the pacing fall far short of their potential. Then there's the story by Nicholas Sparks, which is what it is. It's pure hokum, totally ridiculous, but the trick is to treat it as if it weren't. And because Wolfe fails half the time, the story begins to show through, more and more frequently calling attention to itself. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new movie is how rare this genre is these days. Lately, weepies come attached to some important message so that the picture can rise up to earn accolades and Oscar nominations; they're set during a war, or have something to do with disease (think Atonement or Love in the Time of Cholera). Nights in Rodanthe doesn't require any such pretense. It's about a man and a woman who fall in love, and because we're talking Nicholas Sparks, we're talking tragic results rather than happy ones. And that's it.

DVD Details: It looks like Warner Home Video is continuing to push its customers toward buying Blu-Rays; the DVD comes with widescreen & pan-and-scan formats and optional language tracks and subtitles, and that's it. The

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