Nights in Rodanthe

Marking their third teaming together, the emotionally effective romantic drama “Nights in Rodanthe,” based on the Nicholas Sparks best-selling novel, takes advantage of the age, maturity and skills of the two stars, as well as their strong onscreen chemistry, evident in “The Cotton Club” and particularly in the more recent “Unfaithful.”

A veteran stage producer and helmer, George C. Wolfe makes a so-so feature directing debut, which lacks style and distinction, with an old-fashioned romance that should appeal to mature viewers, particularly older women and fans of author Nicholas Sparks, who had previously written “The Notebook,” “Message in a Bottle,” and “A Walk to Remember,” all of which have been made into rather commercially successful pictures.

Ann Peacock and John Romano's uneven screenplay, which borrows heavily from the original text, often verbatim, centers on the second chance of two adults to find the love of their lives. In a role reversal from “Unfaithful,” in which she was the one to be engaged in an illicit affair, Diane Lane plays Adrienne, a woman reeling from her husband's betrayal and struggling to rebuild a life without him. When the story begins, Adrienne has just learned that her hubby wants to come home.

Similarly to the role Diane Lane played in the romantic drama “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Adrienne, torn by conflicting feelings, welcomes the chance for escape, when an old friend asks her to manage her inn in Rodanthe for a weekend. There, on a remote spot along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Adrienne hopes to find the tranquility she believes is required for rethinking and restructuring her future life.
As is often the norm in such melancholy melodramas, it's the off-season.

The inn where Adrienne stays would be shuttered if it were not for the unlikely arrival of another solitary guest, Paul (Richard Gere), a doctor from the big city. For his part, Paul is also a man going through midlife crisis. Having sacrificed his family to his career, he has traveled to Rodanthe to fulfill a difficult obligation and face head on his embattled conscience.

After the interesting set-up, which cross-cuts between the two protags, “Nights in Rodanthe” settles into a rather familiar melodrama, in which two strangers who initially only share the same roof get to know each other and eventually fall in love¬ó-big love.

Though realistic, considering that the saga is set in the weather-challenged area of North Carolina, it's Mother Nature that serves as the dramatic impetus, pulling the two tormented souls together. As a major storm closes in, Adrienne and Paul first turn to each other for help and comfort, not realizing that in doing so they set in motion a life-changing romance that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.

Thought he melodrama is sparse (compared with the book), the two or three secondary characters enrich it considerably.

Paul's dissolution of his marriage is aggravated by the deepening estrangement with his son. He also faces a major career crisis, when a patient has died and her husband has filed a wrongful death suit. Deluding himself that he's skillful
at “fixing” things quickly, he ignores the case's complications.

Scott Glenn plays Torrelson, the grieving widower, who's misunderstood by Paul. Torrelson isn't interested in money or lawsuit; he just wants an apology, to make sure that the person he loved and died was not just another, anonymous number. One of the film's most powerful scenes is the one in which Torrelson confronts Paul, reflecting a deep pain he has been unable to expressing. The conversation makes it clear that this is the first time Paul has been forced to connect with another human being in a meaningful way.

Ultimately, it's Jack (Christopher Meloni) who functions as the catalyst of the melodrama, the man who lights the fuse of Adrienne's journey, pushing her into basic dilemmas, where she has to examine her very value system, right and wrong, and her future. It's a tribute to Meloni's sincere acting that he makes his character a worthy contender of Paul's.

A quintessential, both literal and literary, American tale, “Nights in Rodanthe” focuses on protagonists who, almost despite themselves, discover hidden resources that help them embark on a second, possibly more exciting chapter in their lives. The movie takes a fluid, dynamic approach toward everyday life, refusing to believe that good or bad, right or wrong, individuals' moral and personal choices are permanent, not to mention fatalistic. The incredibly romantic feature is all about discovery of new interests, new values, and new facets of our identities.

An overtly message picture that a love story for adults, “Nights in Rodanthe” suggests that the dream of finding true love doesn't necessarily end in one's youth–usually twenties in American movies¬óthat finding a soul mate can take place in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of one's midlife journey, when it's least expected.

The film is produced by Denise Di Novi, who also oversaw the making of author Sparks' “Message in a Bottle” and “A Walk to Remember” into big-screen sentimental but also easily digestible commercial fare.

Director of photography Affonso Beato, production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein, and editor Brian A. Kates are responsible for the film's polished look. Jeanine Tesori's score is functional but occasionally too schmaltzy in highlighting the rising emotions of the characters.


Paul – Richard Gere
Adrienne – Diane Lane
Jack – Christopher Meloni
Jean – Viola Davis
Dot – Becky Ann Baker
Robert Torrelson – Scott Glenn


A Warner release, presented in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, of a Di Novi Pictures production.
Produced by Denise Di Novi.
Executive producers: Doug Claybourne, Alison Greenspan, Dana Goldberg, Bruce Berman.
Directed by George C. Wolfe.
Screenplay: Ann Peacock and John Romano, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.
Camera: Affonso Beato.
Editor: Brian A. Kates.
Music: Jeanine Tesori.
Production designer: Patrizia von Brandenstein.
Art directors: Thomas Minton, William G. Davis.
Set decorator: Paul Varrieur.
Costume designer: Victoria Farrell.
Sound: Susumu Tokunow; sound designer/supervisor, Cameron Frankley.
Visual effects supervisor: Eric Durst.

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 97 Minutes.