With the Gulf Coast narrowly dodging Gustav and the Houston area recuperating from Ike, now might not be the best time for a breathy romance that uses the violent lashing of a vicious hurricane to simulate foreplay between passionate lovers.
It's hard to fault director George C. Wolfe, however. His Nights in Rodanthe adaptation merely adheres to a blueprint provided by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, who makes use of a tempest in his source novel but also provides earnest human connections and palpable heartache.
As the story goes, frazzled divorcee Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) agrees to watch her best friend's oceanfront bed-and-breakfast -- situated on North Carolina's scenic coastline -- so she can escape her unfaithful ex (Christopher Meloni), a weekend dad who wants back in the family fold. Despite the threat of that aforementioned hurricane, Adrienne has one guest at the inn. Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) has traveled to Rodanthe from Raleigh to counsel the family of a deceased patient. As the storm tears at the B&B, Adrienne and Paul allow their budding romance to patch their damaged souls.
Rodanthe walks a fine line between maudlin and sappy, but the performers prevent it from ever plunging too far in either direction. Gere understands how best to play a character saddled with an emotional burden. Lane reveals a maternal side, displaying care and sympathetic concern even in her most passionate moments. Rodanthe is far less steamy than Adrian Lyne's 2002 thriller Unfaithful, the last film to pair Gere with Lane (or, more accurately, drive them apart).
Sparks' loyal readers know that a third-act tragedy looms, and those who've read Rodanthe are prepared for the inevitable rug pull. I'm unfamiliar with how faithful Wolfe stays to Sparks' text, so I'll comment only by saying Rodanthe dabbles in love that's characterized by the ache of separation, and how those feelings can stop a lover's heart.
Which is why the knockout blow belongs to Scott Glenn, who delivers a gut-punch of mournful anguish as the husband of Gere's patient who can't accept the fact that his wife is gone. The hurt that lingered in Glenn's sorrowful eyes lingered with me long after the rest of Rodanthe had faded away.
Why so blue?