Novelist Nicholas Sparks seems to have single-handedly resuscitated the women's picture in the last few years with films of his bestsellers including The Notebook, Message In A Bottle and A Walk To Remember. Nights In Rodanthe, which teams up Richard Gere and Diane Lane for the third time, is another old-fashioned romantic melodrama which delivers what it sets out to and should be a success with older female audiences looking for a good cry.
Veteran stage director George C Wolfe (Angels In America, Caroline Or Change) makes his theatrical feature debut here but doesn't bring much new to the familiar package whose sappy tagline says it all: 'It's never too late for a second chance.' The stars will help draw some tidy box office but neither of them will attract the younger audience that was drawn to the McAdams/Gosling combo in The Notebook.
Lane plays Adrienne Willis, a mother of two who has been abandoned by her husband (Meloni) for another woman. Coming to pick up the kids one day from Adrienne's home in North Carolina to take them to Disney World, he announces that he wants to come home.
She tells him that she will think about it over the weekend during which time she has agreed to tend to the remote beach-side inn in Rodanthe run by her friend Jean (Viola Davis in the obligatory sassy black best friend part). That weekend there will only be one guest, one Paul Flanner (Gere), a doctor from the city.
When Flanner arrives, he is cool and distant but warms up over a glass of wine and she discovers that he has been summoned to Rodanthe by a local man (Glenn) whose wife died on Flanner's operating table during a routine surgery. Defensive and high-handed, Flanner refuses to see the man's pain at his wife's death, but as the weekend goes on and he and Adrienne cosy up to each other, he discovers a new lease on life, love and compassion.
The picturesque setting of the remote ramshackle inn on the beach adds some novelty value here and a sequence when the inn is battered by a powerful storm (reflecting the raging passions of the two lovers, of course) is gripping, but otherwise Nights In Rodanthe is as predictable as other Sparks stories right down to the tragic ending.
If the story is a dreary one, it is elevated by the star brio of Gere and Lane who first starred together in The Cotton Club in 1984 when she was just 18. Lane, so superb in their last movie together Unfaithful, is becoming one of America's most reliable screen actresses. She is in the film from start to finish and her warm, vulnerable 43 year-old face steers it just the right side of the saccharine level. Gere, now 59, is, as ever, an effortlessly appealing romantic leading man and the two enjoy a natural chemistry together.
James Franco is wasted in a small role as Gere's son but there is some solid support from Glenn, Davis and Mae Whitman as Lane's obnoxious teenage daughter.
Warner Bros Pictures
Village Roadshow Pictures
Warner Bros/WBPI/Village Roadshow
Denise Di Novi
Ann Peacock & John Romano
Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Director of photography
Patrizia von Brandenstein
Brian A Kates