Nights in Rodanthe Is Exactly What You'd Expect, Plus Ponies! Damn it all, Nicholas Sparks! I told myself if I cried at your eighteen-hanky tearjerk bonanza I would shoot myself in the face. Well consider me dead, mkah? The lesson I learned the hard way is that you don't go into a movie like Nights in Rodanthe expecting it to be anything other than what it is -- a sappy, sad-sack chick-flick that'll have you weeping by the time the credits roll. Writer Nicholas Sparks might very well be the master of this particular strain of movie, something I dubbed the SPOILER ALERT "bone-n-croak" because there's a love story, the requisite "romantic" love scene involving a painfully slow disrobing sequence and some sort of tragic(-ish) death. If you've seen of Sparks' other works (A Walk to [sob!] Remember, The Notebook), you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The plot of Nights in Rodanthe offers layer upon layer of overwrought emotional frippery, but no one ever said this was supposed to be credible. Diane Lane, who isn't so bad to look at onscreen, plays a downtrodden wife and mother who recently separated from her tomcatting hubby, played by Christoper Meloni. (More Meloni, dammit! I want more!) While the no-good spouse has her kids for the weekend, she heads to the picturesque Outer Banks town of Rodanthe to keep watch over her best friend's beachside inn while she's off getting boned by some hot black dude. Her only guest -- because it's off-season and there's a storm a-brewin' (literally and figuratively -- see what they did there!?) -- is, of course, Richard Gere, a big city doc with baggage to spare. I won't bother going into the details, but in sum, he's got an estranged son, played by James Franco (More Franco, dammit! I want more!) and a pending wrongful-death lawsuit against him for a surgery he performed on a woman who ended up dying on his table. He's an uptight, unforgiving workaholic and she's a wronged woman who's forgotten who she is in the service of being a good wife and mother. You can fill in the blanks from there -- they bone, he comes to terms with his various and sundry issues and she rediscovers all the reasons she deserves to be loved, yada yada. Somebody pass me the mother-effing Triscuits to go with this cheese fiesta. Seriously, I'm hungry!

Considering the source, there's not much that could have elevated this movie above the level of fluffy, weepy crapola, but the legions of fans who get giddy at the sight of seeing Gere and Lane back together on screen (this time sans those pesky French lovers and blunt objects) will eat this thing up with a spoon. The real star of this movie, however, is the setting: The gorgeous, sweeping expanse of North Carolina beach, the towering, ramshackle house that served as the inn, the quirky, twinkling interiors strewn with African folk art and Haint blue-painted walls and the mandatory scene featuring the majestic Banker horses galloping down the windswept beach... a more authentic and beautiful love letter to the charming provinces of the Outer Banks might never have appeared on screen, and that alone made the film breathtaking to watch. Alas, it's hard to enjoy the scenery when you've got two actors chewing on it for an hour and a half.

In short, if you're looking for a good laugh with your cry, but consider yourself an aesthete, this might well be the film for you. But I advise you wait 'til a particularly PMS-y weekend and rent it under the dark cover of night. Yeah, it's that kind of a party.




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