“…with horses,…by the sea!”- these words pronounced in a state of trance and comfortable numbness by Holly Gollighty in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” indicate her desire to run off to the endless Mexican shores. Indeed, a picturesque seaside town where the only noise comes from the waves breaking into the shore or the runaway horses neighing is the ideal place to escape from family melodrama, cleanse yourself from guilt burden and…start a romance amid the inebriating darkness of the “Nights in Rodanthe.”
Prominent veteran actors Richard Gere (“American Gigolo”) and Diane Lane (“Secretariat”) have their third (after “Cotton Club” and “Unfaithful”) big-screen re-union in this 2008 romantic dramedy directed by George Wolfe and based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Thanks to the excellent supporting cast (Viola Davis, Christopher Meloni, and James Franco), as well as to the iconic setting (the worldly unknown yet ubiquitous in terms of atmosphere coastal town of Rodanthe, NC), this book adaptation is the perfect outlet for those of us tired of life vicissitudes and thirsty for mad romance.
Middle-aged Adrienne Willis (Lane) feels sort of crucified when her unfaithful husband (Christopher Meloni, “Law & Order: SVU”) makes a move on her again and her hormonally unstable teenage daughter (Mae Whitman) is in one of her moods declaring to her mother that she (the daughter) does not want to be around her any more. A seemingly successful Raleigh plastic surgeon (Gere) finds himself in quite a quagmire after accidentally causing the malpractice death of one of his patients. Feeling threatened by the wrath of the patient’s son and considering a re-union with his estranged son, who is also a doctor (James Franco, Spiderman trilogy, “Pineapple Express”), the disgraced surgeon packs his bags and runs to the tranquility and anonymity of Rodanthe.
Due to the irony of fate, Willis’ best friend (Viola Davis, “Antwone Fisher”) offers Lane’s character the temporary job of overseeing her bed-and-breakfast located in the same town while she (Davis) is away. This is how the two victimized by the whimsies of life meet. They start a romantic relationship that is, of course, smeared by the ups and downs of every affair. Even though Adrienne never gets the chance to be forever with Gere’s character due to unforeseen (or are they?) circumstances, she learns important lessons about life, love, and the ephemerality of things.
In this film, Gere remains faithful to the image of a gigolo, albeit in deeper and more complicated terms. Indeed, he is the one who feeds and satisfies Lane’s loneliness and natural female desire with his vulnerability, vulnerability generated by tragedy and subconscious desire for love romance. Lane, on the other hand, is quite successful in portraying the typical all-American housewife in any aspect- from dodging her daughter’s fits to getting drunk while confessing her life pains to an apparent stranger (Gere). Viola Davis, on the other hand, is the definite face of a comic relief in this dramedy- both with her clumsy looks and with her flicks with exotic lovers while her best friend is living through the biggest crisis of her life.
James Franco’s role is rather pivotal. Despite the fact that he goes un-credited (quite disproportional to the actor’s status), his role is that of the messenger who ought to be shot and is yet not. Indeed, his character is the one who breaks the horrific news to Adrienne that his father has died an untimely yet honorable death in Ecuador while trying to prevent an epidemic from spreading upon the natives. He is the one who personally delivers the letters where the surgeon pours out his soul and conscience to his love interest. Franco’s “Nights in Rodanthe” alter-ego deserves one of the biggest alter-egos.
By all means, all the actors’ appearance and contribution to the plot is terrific. Yet, the major star remains the setting, or the town of Rodanthe. With all its absolute proximity to the sea, its small-town familiarity (everybody knows everybody), its impeccable tranquility, and its runaway horses-like atmosphere for frivolous love flick, Rodanthe remains the controlling trademark of the whole film.
If you want to see an impactful dramedy, escape from it all, and prepare for a crazy romance, then “Nights in Rodanthe” is about the perfect film.