If you don’t know the name Nicholas Sparks, then you probably aren’t a female between the ages of 16 and 50. Those in that demographic know Sparks immediately as that guy who wrote The Notebook. Of course, he also wrote Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember before that book, and all three romance novels were soon adapted into films. It was only a matter of time before his next book, Nights in Rodanthe was made into a film as well. All four novels, and subsequent films, have the theme of the transcendent power of romantic love. But how well does Nights in Rodanthe stack up as a film to Sparks’ previous work and the romance film genre in general?
In Nights in Rodanthe, Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) is a divorced mother of two whose cheating husband (Christopher Meloni) wants to rekindle their relationship. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) is a surgeon being sued after one of his patients dies on the operating table. The two meet on the island of Rodanthe in North Carolina: Adrienne is there to look after an inn owned by her best friend, Jean (Viola Davis), and Paul checks in when he arrives in town to meet with the anguished husband (Scott Glenn) of his dead patient. Both profoundly unhappy and confused people, Adrienne and Paul find solace in each other, and embark on a hesitant, emotionally fraught romance that will have tough, life-changing consequences for them both.
Diane Lane and Richard Gere have worked together before (Unfaithful), so it should be no surprise that they have tremendous chemistry in this Sparks adaptation. This is a love story for mature viewers, and they are a perfect pair to portray these characters. They are strongly supported by others as well, though. Most notable are the performances from Scott Glenn as the widower, Viola Davis as Lane’s sassy best friend, Mae Whitman as Lane’s daughter, and James Franco in a small role as Gere’s son. First-time feature film director George C. Wolfe was wise to just let these actors work with the material they are given.
Unfortunately, the material that they are given is not that great. This is your typical melodramatic stuff here. We all know that Diane Lane and Richard Gere are supposed to fall in love, but there seems to be no real reason why they should, except for close proximity to each other and physical attraction to each other during a big storm. That doesn’t make for a great romance. From there, the film rushes to the ending that everyone can see coming. Anyone who has read any of the novels from Nicholas Sparks or seen any of the movies based on those books knows what is going to happen, they just don’t know how. Sadly, the average viewer probably won’t care by that point. But at least you can look at the beautiful scenery that surrounds this film, long after your interest level for this film has bottomed out.
All romance films can sink or swim based on the actors involved, and thankfully Nights in Rodanthe has the benefit of having Gere and Lane there to be its life preserver. The majority of the people watching this film are probably Nicholas Sparks fans, so that might make them care what happens to the characters played by Richard Gere and Diane Lane. But for everyone else, the source material from the novel and the weird editing of the film really zap any emotion that might come from the ending. Nights in Rodanthe is a considerably large step down from The Notebook, but it’s still at least watchable thanks to the acting. Knowing Hollywood, though, as long as Sparks keeps writing novels that women keep reading, the movie rights will be sold and films will be made. It’s too bad that more people don’t know the meaning of stop while you are ahead.
The video included is available in both 1.33:1 fullscreen color and 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The quality is good, but not great. The setting of this film is beautiful to look at, but here the colors or fine details really don’t pop out. Everything is presented accurately, but nothing special. No major problems, though.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so no major problems here either. But like the video quality, the audio quality is pretty average.
There are no extras on this standard definition DVD. All of the extras are exclusively on the Blu-ray edition, which is a first. But I can see that becoming a trend in the future. For what it’s worth, you are only missing 3 featurettes, a director’s audio commentary, some deleted scenes, and a music video for a song from the film. If that interests you any, you will have to pay the $5-10 extra for Blu-ray.
This is a worth a rental for fans of Nicholas Sparks or any of the previous movies made from his novels. Richard Gere and Diane Lane fans might even consider buying this film based on their previous chemistry in films. But most everyone else will probably won’t to pass on Nights in Rodanthe. This is not a terrible film, but it is strictly average, and nowhere near the best work from Sparks.
Warner Home Entertainment presents Nights in Rodanthe. Directed by George C. Wolfe. Written by Ann Peacock and John Romano (screenplay); and Nicholas Sparks (novel). Starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, James Franco, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis, Becky Ann Baker, Scott Glenn, Linda Molloy, Pablo Schreiber, Mae Whitman, and Charlie Tahan. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: February 10, 2009.
Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Diane Lane, Nicholas Sparks, Richard Gere, The Notebook