News | Sunday, 19 October 2008

Giving love a second chance

Diane Lane and Richard Gere are teamed for the third time in this film which is the fourth novel by Nicholas (The Notebook) Sparks to be adapted for the screen.
Lane is cast as Adrienne Willis who, only months after it happened, is still hurt by her husband, Jack (Christopher Meloni), leaving her for another woman.
She’s doing her best for her two children, Danny (Charlie Tahan) and Amanda (Mae Whitman), but the latter dotes on her father and rebels against Adrianne.
Jack surprises her by asking her to forgive him and take him back. Conflicted and confused, she leaves for a North Carolina barrier island where she had promised her friend Jean (Viola Davis) to run her inn while she’s away.
The only guest is Paul Flanner (Gere), a prominent surgeon whose last surgery went wrong and who’s here to talk to someone. As a hurricane gets closer to the island so do Adrianne and Paul and friends become lovers during the stormy night.
Nights in Rodanthe has its share of corny moments and clichéd dialogue, especially in the exchange of voiced over love letters and the much heralded hurricane turns out to be no more than a night storm.
It provides the film with some physical melodrama but mainly it serves to, almost literally, throw the budding lovers into each other’s arms and a discreet bed scene.
We’re given Adrienne’s back story and her crisis right from the start, but we’re told very little about Paul. The makers have tried to make Paul a mystery man but this goes on for longer than it’s advisable.
When it comes, the revelation isn’t worth the wait and it places the film at a disadvantage. For this keeps the plot uneventful for some time during which we don’t know if these are going to be interesting characters and whether it’s worth spending 97 minutes with them.
It’s just as true to say that the film’s old-fashioned content and treatment works in its favour for it’s made for audiences in their forties and over. This kind of film has been absent for so long that now it’s refreshingly welcome and endearing.
It’s a gentle romance that builds into a fully developed love story. And it becomes emotionally cathartic in its last act which is resoled in an unexpected way.
The director is George C. Wolfe, a highly respected Broadway director, here making his film debut. He still has a lot to learn about film as a much more fluidly mobile medium than theatre. Cinematographer Alfonso Beato and editor Brian A. Kates do a lot to bale him out.
Beato’s photography of the picturesque locations and the harmonious combination of the homely and the exotic in the excellent art design created for the inn’s interiors give the film a certain visual richness and an almost constantly shimmering look.
Kates compensates for the more static scenes with perfectly judged quick cutting whenever the film allows it. Scott Glenn only has two brief scenes but as the widower, he registers strongly as the widower and James Franco gives an unaccredited but sincere contribution.
Diane Lane and Richard Gere work very hard and succeed in being persuasive. They, and Lane in particular, give such heartfelt performances that, despite the film’s flaws hinting at the contrary, they give the predominant impression of real love and sincere feelings.
It’s their portrayals of two forty something people who discover love and a second chance at a late stage in their lives which mainly accounts for the film being very romantic. Though bitter-sweet, it’s a very pleasant experience which leaves you with a warm glow.
It’s all too easy to give this film a cynical dismissal but Nights in Rodanthe will provoke extremely different reactions. So I felt I owed my readers an objective account of its shortcomings and merits and then to draw a conclusion, which is why this review is twice as long as usual.

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