Although the film arrived to lackluster critical acclaim, the re-pairing of Unfaithful stars Diane Lane and Richard Gere seemed too hard to pass up for the romantic comedy crowd. Adapted from the Nicholas Sparks novel (who was also responsible for The Notebook, one of the most highly acclaimed romantic comedies in recent years), Nights in Rodanthe simply didn’t have as much of a success as previous Sparks adaptations. Despite poor reception, however, the film eventually went on to gross nearly $85 million worldwide, no doubt a result of the on-screen pairing of Lane and Gere for a second go around.
The stars of Unfaithful rekindle their screen chemistry in this rich tale of hearts awakenings based on a bestseller by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Message in a Bottle). Richard Gere is Paul, a surgeon who long ago unwittingly traded career for family. Diane Lane is Adrienne, a devoted mother trying to move on after her husbands infidelity and struggling with his desire to return to their marriage. At a remote inn on the Outer Banks, Paul and Adrienne expect to do some serious soul-searching. But an approaching storm forces each to turn to the other for strength, setting the stage for a life-resonating romance.
There have been very few romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed, as I hold that genre in the same regard as I do the horror one. How is that possible, you ask? Well I don’t particularly enjoy either one, but if there is a really solid film that can come out of it, then I’m more than willing to put it up on the shelves with the rest of my movies. The thing about romantic comedies and horror films is that there is such a huge audience for both that the quality level of the films varies wildly, resulting in some absolutely horrible films. Granted not all of them are something you want to shut off within a few seconds, but they often end up with a gimmicky or cliché ending which can shove them in the “mediocre” category. And that is exactly where Rodanthe fits in.
Now obviously I’m not going to go into this film expecting much; critical reviews were low and the most I heard about this film was from The Colbert Report where Colbert would mock it for a few nights (or was it weeks?) in a row. On top of that the trailers just looked horrendously cheesy, making it all the more undesirable for me to watch. Still, I attempted to leave some kind of area of my mind open to the idea of enjoying this production, but when the film actually began to get interesting it went and pulled a stupid ending out of its hat.
Perhaps stupid is too strong of a word. Incredibly predictable, maybe? The problem with film adaptations of books is that in a book, a line of dialogue can be much more subtle. You read it without a second thought, yet when they deliver a line in the film, it’s so condensed and so compacted that every piece of dialogue counts, forcing you to emphasize the impending event. It’s nothing new when it comes to the medium and I still notice it in television and film to this day. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about when some piece of dialogue seems to come out of nowhere or the characters linger on it too much; or the more tell tale sign is when the camera zooms in on something or hangs for too long on a seemingly incidental character or piece of background information. Fortunately Rodanthe just had the dialogue portion, but it was still very noticeable and very distracting.
I won’t point out the specific piece of dialogue as it will ruin it for anyone who happens to go and see this film, but it’s just a very obvious bit in the film. It’s a shame too, as the chemistry between Gere and Lane is definitely felt (how odd is it that I ended up reviewing the Blu-ray release of Unfaithful a few days before this one showed up?) and is really the highlight of the whole film. Two emotionally afflicted individuals come together in a bed and breakfast and fall in love, only to have an odd twist get thrown in at the end.
For the most part the film is enjoyable, but it’s such a short ride (an hour and thirty seven minutes) that it almost feels as if they perhaps condensed the book into too little of a window, although the book itself was fewer than three hundred pages so I guess Sparks’ novels are light reads regardless. Overall Gere and Lane are definitely great together on screen, but when the attention from them is split, so is the audience’s enjoyment of the film. Worth a Rental for romantic comedy lovers, but anyone else will be bored by its overly generic style of pacing and “I saw that a mile away” storytelling.
Nights in Rodanthe arrives on Blu-ray in a two-disc Elite case (second disc is the digital copy) with a cardboard o-ring mimicking the jacket art below it. Inside the case is a set of inserts detailing steps necessary for BD-Live functionality and the code for the digital copy. The film auto-starts, so no need for much of a menu system, although there is a bit of one for the special features; you can activate it by hitting one of the menu buttons on your remote, either Main Menu or Pop-Up Menu. It does take up the entire screen, however, so be careful not to activate during the film otherwise you’ll lose sight of what’s happening on screen.
The film arrives in a VC-1 encoded 1080p 2.4:1 image and looks quite gorgeous. Not surprising since this is a recently produced film, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything visually wrong with the production, as there are plenty of great shots of the beach house that show off the sand granules and ocean beautifully. While it’s not exactly a film you’d take to show off your setup, it still has some very nice imagery contained within it so make it, at the very least, visually appealing. The film boasts no TrueHD track, but it’s not exactly one that would demand it anyway (though really, how hard would it be to pop in a lossless track here?). The dialogue driven films makes the DD5.1 track talk up front clean and clear, with a little bit of surround going on during some of the outdoor sequences. Also included are French, Spanish and Portuguese DD5.1 tracks, as well as English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.
Alternate Scenes with optional Director Commentary
The Nature of Love Featurette – the actors and director talk about what made them want to do this film, making this as close to a making-of as we’ll get for this film.
A Time for Love Featurette – profiles author Nicholas Sparks.
An Intimate Look Featurette – talks to singer/songwriter Emmylou Harris.
Love Remains the Same Music Video
The extras are all in HD, which is a nice plus and the promise of more features via BD-Live as well, although as of this writing there was nothing up for viewing (aside from a trailer for the film).
Overall this is actually a pretty decent release for a film that wasn’t exactly a blockbuster success, although I imagine it made more than enough to cover its budget. Still only die-hard Sparks fans will want to own this movie, as it has very few (if any) redeeming qualities. Worth a Rental at least.
Nights in Rodanthe arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on February 10th.