About those "Nights in Rodanthe": They're about as steamy as a cup of tea. But it's not for a lack for trying. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) meets Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane), the temporary proprietress at his bed and breakfast, gives her his heart, and love letters ensue. Sample: "Was it the storm, the wine, or the way you looked at me?" Another: "Nothing compares to the peaks and valleys I traced along your body." One more: "When I write to you, I feel your breath."
That's funny. When you two write to each other, I smell chai.
This movie is the magical mug two strangers share when they have a big old North Carolina beachfront B&B to themselves. On one side of the table is Gere, ready to lower his guard for love. Again.
One the other side of the table is Diane Lane, America's favorite unhappily divorced/unhappily married/unhappily single woman ready to have a man turn her iron will to goo. "Rodanthe" gives Lane an opportunity to go gooey with the man - Gere - she cheated on in their last movie together, Adrian Lyne's "Unfaithful." That movie was simple (sex with a French stranger is great!); this new one is simpler (we need a hit!).
That's not to say there's nothing to like here. Mae Whitman, as Lane's testy daughter, and James Franco, here briefly as Gere's son, are among the actors who seem to be having a good time. Poor Scott Glenn, as a man in mourning, and Pablo Schreiber, as his badly accented son, don't. Even so, they're good, too. But Viola Davis, as Lane's best friend and the actual owner of the inn Adrienne is babysitting, appears to be calling in from some orgasm-inducing spa. She greets every detail about Paul as though it might have some aphrodisiac quality. This year's "I'll Have What She's Having Award" goes to her.
George C. Wolfe, the highly esteemed New York stage director, brings a lot of bristling energy to this adaptation of one of Nicholas Sparks's best-selling bubble baths. I'm tempted to say all the crane shots, pirouetting camera work, and jumpy editing are in vain, but the truth is they kept me awake.
Wolfe even makes evocative use of Dinah Washington and some African-American folk paintings that Davis's character creates and collects. And he lets all the truth in Adrienne's advice to her daughter about holding out for real love sink in. But once a hurricane blows Gere and Lane into each other's arms, all the director's tasteful style and good sense turn into mush. Given the material, I suppose it has to.
There's not much else to say about a movie in which the stars drunkenly heave tins of Spam and lard into the trash - only that it's more succinct film criticism than anything you just read.