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Tue September 23, 2008
Nights in Rodanthe
Beyond the pale . . .
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"The sky is changed,?and such a change! O night
And storm and darkness! ye are wondrous strong,
Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light
Of a dark eye in woman!"
The Outer Banks have much more energy and originality than lovers Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) and Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) in Nights in Rodanthe. That these two actors can do much better is evidenced in their stormy characters from Unfaithful (2002), so just maybe the screenplay and direction here have not brought out their best.
Dr. Flanner books a room at a sea-swept hideaway; the only other inhabitant is Adrienne, helping out the absent owner. Goodness, such beautiful middle-aged people left on their own during a hurricane?I wonder what could happen? Well, given their current traumas, he from a surgery patient who dies on the operating table and she from a faithless husband wanting to come back, the time to let the sea wash away that bad is at hand.
Besides the uninspired dialogue between these one-note characters, the parallel disturbances in their lives are not credible all together, albeit individually realistic. For instance, he has a son he needs to reconcile with; she has a daughter she also needs to win over. By the way, daughter, mother and other major players need to tone down their acting, especially since they all cry too much.
Nights in Rodanthe is briefly saved from genre graveyard by Scott Glenn's austere performance as Robert Torrelson, husband of the lost patient. His rage at Dr. Flanner is mitigated by his bottomless humanity as he describes his love for his wife. Glenn's minimalist angry Southerner is a fresh take on a stereotype, reclamation of that type into a simple loving husband who wanted only to hear the doctor's remorse. Nicely nuanced stuff amid clich?s and forced-smiling actors.
I dream of this middle-aged romance being a lead short story in Modern Maturity or AARP Bulletin where the audience would embrace maudlin set-ups and tidy plots. Otherwise, only Kevin Costner in the lead role could enliven this turgid, not stormy tale.
The hurricane metaphor is beyond the pale.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain?action=sectionIndex&sid=13 . Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com