Home | Review Archive | The Bucket 'Blog | Screening Log | Film Festival Coverage | Contact Danny


  Nights in Rodanthe

Starring: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis

Directed by: George Wolfe

Produced by: Denise Di Novi

Written by: John Romano, Ann Peacock (rewrite)

Distributor: Warner Bros.


     Rarely have I felt as cynical about the world because of a movie as I did after watching Nights in Rodanthe, which is saying something given how many movies I’ve seen that actually intend to provoke cynicism. Yes, it’s true, a “romantic tearjerker” made for middle-aged women without controversial intentions turned me into Camus for an evening. Nights in Rodanthe struck me as such an artificial, mechanical, useless piece of formula shamelessly designed to appeal to a target audience and make money that it provided me several existentialist epiphanies. If the masses really eat this garbage up in the profound way that my screening’s audience did, I thought to myself as I left the theatre, then there must not be any reason to legitimize emotion. Shit happens – who cares and so what, right?

     I’ve been recovering from that emptying experience for about a week and, after seeing a few other movies that were able to restore my faith in human emotion, I think I can finally view Nights in Rodanthe as a mere isolated example of manipulative ineptness. Isolated or not, however, the film still sucks.

     There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the characters or the premise, which are based on those of a Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. (For the record, I’m not at all a Sparks-hater; I found plenty of emotional truth in the cinematic-adaptations of A Walk to Remember and The Notebook.) The story follows a short love shared between Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane), a suburban mother who is debating whether to take her cheating-husband (Christopher Meloni) back, and Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), the dashing doctor who enters the scene and makes the aforementioned martial-decision a no-brainer. They meet at the ocean-front bed-and-breakfast of Adrienne’s friend Jean (Viola Davis), who has left business-duties to Adrienne while away, right as a hurricane is about to blow through. (In other words: what could possibly be a better way of escaping a dangerous storm than leaping into the arms of a virtual-stranger with whom you’ve decided you share a connection?)

     The movie’s failure rests in overdramatic touches that it expects the viewer to not only buy, but be moved by. For example, Paul is forced to tell Adrienne about a terrible event in his medical past that inspired him to come to her friend’s inn, leading to two confrontations with a local man that are so manipulative they are downright insulting to the viewer’s intelligence and sensibilities. These lead to further related revelations about Paul’s rocky relationship with his son (James Franco), who plays an eye-roller of a part in overwrought flashback-sequences. And then there are, of course, the film’s phony attempts to make Adrienne a “relatable” menopause-age woman for mothers in the audience. In an opening scene, she and her teenage daughter (Mae Whitman) fight over a nasty tattoo her daughter has gotten without permission, only to later find that said daughter has come full-circle and learned to show respect for Mom when inevitable tragedy strikes in the third act. The only thing more unbelievable than the fact that writers Ann Peacock and John Romano and director Geoge C. Wolfe would have the nerve to think viewers would fall for the material in the way they intend is that viewers are indeed falling for it (if the audience I watched it with is any indication, that is). Don’t even get me started on the fact that the filmmakers themselves might even go so far as to label the picture as spiritually-healing… in an Oprahesque sort of way.

     Why were the women sitting next to me in tears as they watched Nights in Rodanthe? Surely, these were educated Americans who knew better than to be fooled by such an exploitative picture. I hope for art’s sake that they were merely reacting to their admiration for leads Gere and Lane, who have undoubtedly been in better films and attract support from many fans of their age. (And don’t think I’m being a misogynist here by outing women in particular; the same problem exists among the men who thought that Babylon A.D., for instance, was a great film.) But if those women were really weeping because they found the material compelling, then perhaps my initial nihilistic reaction to the film was justified. Without the desire to revisit said reaction, however, I will put Nights in Rodanthe past me with a strong and simple warning: don’t see the movie. It is devoid of both entertainment-value and artistic-merit.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 9.24.2008

Screened on: 9.17.2008 at the AMC Century City 15 in Century City, CA.


Nights in Rodanthe is rated PG-13 and runs 97 minutes.

Back to Home