Movie Review for Nights in Rodanthe (2008)

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Review #690 of 365
Movie Review of Nights in Rodanthe (2008) [PG-13] 97 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.00
Where Viewed: Kerasotes Olde Town 14 , Arvada, CO
When Seen: 23 September 2008 @ 7:30 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits: there is nothing

Soundtrack: Download now from Emmylou Harris - Nights In Rodanthe (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: George C. Wolfe (Lackawanna Blues )
Screenplay by: Ann Peacock (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) • John Romano (Intolerable Cruelty ) Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Richard Gere (I'm Not There) • Diane Lane (Jumper) • Christopher Meloni (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) • Viola Davis (Disturbia) • Mae Whitman ("Avatar: The Last Airbender") • Charlie Tahan (I Am Legend) • James Franco (Pineapple Express) • Scott Glenn (The Bourne Ultimatum) • Pablo Schreiber (Quid Pro Quo)

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Once again, I've not read the book, so you'll have to check the spoiler to find out if the movie holds true. I don't read books until after movies that way I've never been disappointed by a movie because it didn't live up to the expectations of the book. I did, however, see The Notebook which was based on another of Nicholas Sparks's novels (yes proper English requires the apostrophe s on proper nouns despite what one often finds on-line these days). Still haven't read that book either, been a bit too busy seeing and reviewing movies, apologies to Mr. Sparks, whom I hope is rewarded handsomely for his film rights, but loved the movie! In fact, still to this day think the movie should have gotten a B.P. nomination from the stodgy Academy and got robbed that year as did Ryan Gosling who generally gets robbed. Anyway, not going to lie but The Notebook set a pretty high bar, as far as the movie went, for which all expectations would be that Nights in Rodanthe would top it. Very disappointing. About the only way it tops The Notebook is in length and pronunciation of the titles, with all due respect to Richard Gere and Diane Lane both of whom are outstanding in their leading roles as star-crossed lovers embarking on a second chance at love.

One thing the screen plays of Nicholas Sparks's novels get right, if not the novels themselves (you tell me, as I say, I've not read them), is some of the best romance stuff I've ever seen in a movie. If the best, and I think there are few who'll argue, romance of all time is "Romeo and Juliet" than I'm going far out on a limb and say that Nicholas Sparks is the Shakespeare of romance of our age. He absolutely gets how to get it going between fictional characters he invents in his mind. He knows how to build it and make it simmer and the boil out all over the kitchen stove top with the passion of red hot Tobasco® sauce on a flaming' hot wing. I've never experienced anything like it in films since my seventh grade English teacher accidentally showed us the Franco Zeffirelli version of "Romeo & Juliet" during our Shakespeare unit. I don't know what all the fuss was about. I just know that that was the first time I ever realized the power of films to convey true love, and I never felt that way again until I saw The Notebook. And, you will feel that too in Nights in Rodanthe, if you can pronounce it and spell it (no it doesn't have an 'h' in it like a lot of people seem to think). And maybe it's just because I'm plain ignorant of the Carolinas being from the Rocky Mountain west, but I'd never heard of Rodanthe, and when I saw the title, I thought, "Oh, no, another Out of Africa story we've been there and done that haven't we?). Rodanthe (pronounced row-DAN-thee) is an unincorporated community on Hatteras Island, part of Dare County, North Carolina apparently sort of near Chicamacomico. (Yeah, don't ask me how to pronounce that.) Sources say the film was shot there in North Carolina, and if so, well, it seemed nice—no mountains to speak of, plenty of ocean though if you like that sort of thing. So, anyway, aside from the title that is pretty misleading, Nights in Rodanthe, as if the days in Rodanthe didn't matter, the story is pretty simple.

Breaking it down, Adrienne Willis (no relation to Bruce and being played by Diane Lane) is having huge, gigantic marital problems. Aside from the fact that her husband, Jack (Christopher Meloni) cheated on her with some younger woman at work, now the day she's supposed to go down to, guess where, wait for it, wait for it, yep that's right Rodanthe to take care of her god-sister's Inn for the weekend, he decides he wants to move back home. That's right the seven-month affair hasn't worked out as he thought, and he wants his family back. Well, buddy, too bad. This is a Nicholas Sparks story not some "Man Show" episode. So, of course, Adrienne throws a fit, makes her kids feel kind of bad, and sends them all away so she can 'escape' to Rodanthe (which also might have been an equally good title). She arrives and gets the what's what from Jean (Viola Davis) about shoring up the place just in case the 50-50 storm falls on the bad side of 50. Then Jean beats it to head to Miami on some business trip. The inn was Jean's grandmother's, and apparently Jean and Adrienne have been friends since childhood, the next best thing to being sisters. So, Adrienne starts getting things ready for the arrival of the weekend's only guest, a Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) who, too, is staying there to escape. Only, he's escaping a marriage that died years ago when he made the decision, or so he says, to be the "best doctor" not the best husband or best father to his only son, Mark (an uncredited because it's so cool not to be James Franco). He arrives with additional baggage for it turns out that very close by lives Mr. Torrelson (Scott Glenn) and his boy Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) the husband and son of a former patient of his. Former in the sense of no-longer-among-the-living that is. You see, Flanner was removing a giant facial cyst in a routine, for him, operation when she kicked the bucket on the table due to an allergic reaction to the anesthesia (which happens apparently in about 1 in 50,000 cases).

… the film goes from being a grand romance to a cliché,three-word bumper sticker "treasure every moment".
It is not the fault of the operating surgeon, but because he didn't go right out and hold Mr. Torrelson's hand, two bad things happened. First, his son used this as more evidence of him being not just an absentee father but an absentee doctor (he claimed he had better things to do like serve the next three patients on whom he operated that day) and up and left the country to start his own clinic in Ecuador without saying good bye. Second, Mr. Torrelson and Charlie decided to file a wrongful death suit against him—which, of course, anyone who's anyone in the legal profession knows that that will never win out in court in this case, but hey, it makes you feel better and earns the lawyers some cash. So, his visit to Rodanthe is to cure his ails, the rift with Torrelson and his son—the former via a face to face visit and the latter due to a clearing of the mind and subsequent trip to see his son. Well, remember, you've got Nicholas Sparks on the other side of this head-on-collision of soul mates in the making. And, the chemistry between Adrienne and Paul is almost instantaneous—of course it doesn't hurt that they're in Rodanthe, alone, hopped up on mid-life-crisis hormones and both in desperate need of any sort of affirmation. Let's face it, their just plain, old-fashioned horny. (Apologies, but I researched and researched for a less provocative word for that, and I couldn't find one). Well, of course, Nicholas Sparks works his magic, or, at least, the screenwriters who, apparently do deserve some credit, Ann Peacock and John Romano, and Adrienne helps Paul overcome his issues while he reciprocates back appropriately. Wow, how refreshing, right? But, so then what? They get married and the film ends? Nope, that's not Nichols Sparks. Of course, Richard leaves and goes to Ecuador and the two transition from a tactile relationship of four days to many months of two-dimensional love letters. But boy can they write love letters and all the while Adrienne works on making a wooden keepsake box out of a piece of gnarled driftwood—apparently her alimony from Jack is more than enough to live on.

So, now, if you really want to know what happens next and how it ends, you'll have to read the spoiler, but suffice it to say, that it ruins the entire movie. I was pretty outraged. I guess I shouldn't have been so outraged or something. I mean think about how "Romeo and Juliet" ends? It's pretty shocking and sad, right. I guess the difference between the two is that one ends in classic romantic tragedy and the other in a contrived mental state seemingly designed by some writer, I cannot blame Sparks since, well, I don't know how his novel ended. I just know that this seemed whipped up for pure emotional shock nothing more, nothing less. In that, the film goes from being a grand romance to a cliché, three-word bumper sticker "treasure every moment". At first, I was a bit conflicted. I wanted to love the film. I wanted it to be better than The Notebook. I wanted it to have a cool and unexpected twist at the end. I wanted to leave thinking, finally an Academy Award® for a Sparks story! But, as I reached into my stomach to pull up my heart and put it back in place, I listened to others around me. Normally, I block them out. I just go out the rear exit and get no reaction from the lay people. But, this time, there was no getaway exit, and the people were not holding back. "Stupidest movie I've ever seen," "Waste of time," "Who'd believe that mess?", "I'd demand my money back if this hadn't been a free sneak preview". Those were some of the nicer and more repeatable comments.

… Nights in Rodanthe fails to live up to lofty expectations set by The Notebook.
So, I got to thinking, what went wrong? The acting was great. I mean wow, Diane Lane, she's hot foxy hot. Richard Gere, there's almost no difference in this guy from his debut as an American Gigolo except some streaks of silver in his still flowing mane—ruff! Together, forget Debra Winger or Julia Roberts, this is electro-chemistry. This is platinum electrodes in salt water making explosive hydrogen and oxygen. Do you remember the hot wings mentioned above? The subsidiary performances were quality—though Mae Whitman who played Adrienne's daughter was a bit smug. The subplot of the Torrelsons was a bit contrived, but not major. So what then? It cannot be blamed on a tragic ending alone, except that really is to blame. A tragic ending contrived simply to be tragic isn't tragic at all, it's silly. It's not "Romeo and Juliet" it's just pointless. And, that sadly is how a lot of people will feel at the end of Nights of Rodanthe. Some may be able to see the growth in one character in particular and accept the grace of divine intervention. But most are going to simply feel cheated and rightly so. So whether it's Sparks original novel, the Peackock/Romano screenplay, the direction of George C. Wolfe (who, by the way does admirably in every other way) or a combination of all three, who knows? All that is known is that Nights in Rodanthe fails to live up to lofty expectations set by The Notebook.

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Other Projects Featuring Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Cast Members
Richard GereDiane LaneChristopher Meloni
Viola DavisMae WhitmanCharlie Tahan
James FrancoScott GlennPablo Schreiber
George C. Wolfe
Ann PeacockJohn Romano

Review-lite Nights in Rodanthe (2008) [max of 150 words]
The film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook set the expectations for Nights in Rodanthe very high. Though the romance is brilliant, the ending takes the story farther off course than the mispronunciations bound to the title. Richard Gere and Diane Lane perform the roles of the title characters beautifully, but toward what end? And ending that turns this romance into a cliché, three-word bumper stick "treasure every moment".

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