Nights in Rodanthe

Oct 1, 2008 at 12:00 am

Pulp writer Nicholas Sparks specializes in light and fluffy romantic soufflés, yet somewhere between the airport paperback rack and the multiplex, his stuff tends to congeal into big gloppy bowls of butterscotch pudding. Which isn't to say that given the right day or the right stomach, that sort of thing can't be satisfying, though it's certainly an acquired taste. It's sort of like those toxic red, flaming hot Cheetos – I'm not likely to pick up a bag anytime soon, but clearly somebody's buying them.

So, the latest Sparks adaptation is sure to please the dickens out of some portion of his very large audience, eager as they are to chuck away any sense of logic, reason or cinema theory and get lost in the soggy beaches of middle-age romantic wanderlust. The more cynically inclined will need to down a bit more medicine before trying to swallow this ladle full of syrup. Enjoyment is predicated not just on one's insulin tolerance but on a taste for the pairing of Richard Gere and Diane Lane, who generated real heat in Unfaithful, and here rely on stoking the remaining embers. They do make a handsome couple, with the ageless Gere still making 'em swoon, and the charming Lane providing a little bit of soccer-mom MILF allure, and a very womanly appeal.

The overly clunky plot seems to have been cobbled from the random contents of a thousand suburban scrapbooking kits, with love letters, canned sausages, malpractice suits, wild ponies and keepsake boxes made from driftwood all playing a role. Messy details aside, Lane's frustrated housewife Adrienne and Gere's brooding surgeon Paul find themselves stuck together in the beachside bed and breakfast of a coastal North Carolina island, and wouldn't you know it, an incoming hurricane blows away their differences and forces them into each other's arms. A roll in the hay can do wonders, and soon the lovers are heading into town for a rocking clambake, and doing the traditional lip-synch/awkward white people dancing to vintage R&B that's mandated in Hollywood bylaws. This little fling is brief, but it creates lasting ripples in both their lives, allowing closed off souls to open themselves up to the possibility of love once again, or at least for a trip to the mall to reload up on warm, comforting afghans.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].