"Nights in Rodanthe, never reaching the end; letters I've written, never meaning to send." Oh man, I'm so old, and Richard Gere isn't exactly a spring chicken either, yet that I can still completely buy his finding new love with a woman who's 15 years younger than him (Granted, she's also middle-aged, but the age difference is still sizable), not just because he, at, like, 100, still looks better than me, but because he and Diane Lane are long overdue for an onscreen relationship that isn't spiteful. Seriously, they met in the midst of gang activity in "The Cotton Club", then Lane ends up messing around behind Gere's back in "Unfaithful", so they've earned a happy relationship... or at least a tragic relationship that isn't backed by them hating each other. Man, Nicholas Sparks knows how to make one heck of a tragic and apparently particularly marketable airport romance story, which would be great and all if you actually cared about the characters, like you, well, kind of do about the characters in this film. Yeah, I don't know if it's because this film's generally old-fashioned jazzy soundtrack is actually good, or if it's because I don't like young people, like the ones in most every other Nick Sparks film (Oh yeah, because Kevin Costner and Robin Wright are practically babies), but this film is actually kind of decent, so I reckon that means that Gere is at least making up for something that he did a long time ago. That's right, people, if you thought that "Days of Heaven" was borderline bull, like you should have (Stupid art snobs), these "Nights in Rodanthe" have a bit a more flavor to them... as well as a distinct beach house that eerily reminds be of the distinct house from "Days of Heaven". That being said, this film isn't exactly cleansed of a bit of blandness, being generally decent, but hardly without its share of issues.
The film is hardly all that slow, and it's certainly a long ways away from being as generally bland as most every other adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, yet as reasonably engaging and entertaining as the film is, it still has its share of occasions in which atmosphere dries up, not so much so that you're somewhat bored, but decidedly to the point of shaking engagement value, which is shaken enough by, of course, development issues, which are getting to be expected in Nicholas Sparks films, even in one this fleshed out. Writers Ann Peacock and John Romano do a much better job than plenty in absorbing the depths of Sparks' characters, getting you associated with and invested in them adequately, yet this character drama would succeed more if Sparks's source material or whatever didn't still leave some holes in exposition, or at least in characterization originality, painting characters who feel a bit too undercooked and familiar for their own good. The characters of this film are fairly compelling, and that's more than you can say about many other Nick Sparks characters, but characterization is flawed, having only so many layers and, of course, only so much originality, something whose issues apply to plenty other storytelling elements. Where other Sparks stories are adapted so lazily that their conventions come off as all-out challeningly trite, there's a bit more heart behind this project to make its overly familiar beats somewhat worthwhile, but only so much can be done to obscure the fact that this story is so very formulaic and predictable, following a worn path that wouldn't be so bumpy if this story didn't take its beats from age-old tales that have always needed some punch-up in the subtlety department. This story is more down-to-earth than many Sparks efforts, or at least handled well enough in this adaptation for you to buy into it, but some histrionics can still be found in the midst of somewhat manufactured dramatic beats, and kind of understandably so, because without a bit too much juice pumped into it, this film's storytelling would be all but thin. There's only so much meat to Sparks' story, and no matter how much this interpretation tries to make and, in some ways, succeeds in making a relatively strong effort, it still has frustrating shortcomings that keep the film from achieving bonafide goodness. That being said, this film surprisingly borders on genuinely strong, and that's more than you can say about a lot of Nicholas Sparks adaptations, being an inspired effort with flaws, but inspiration, nevertheless, even when it comes to musical tastes.
Seeing as how this film is aimed at a relatively older audience, I don't know what kind of overly commercial soundtrack it could have had, but evasion of laziness can even be found in this efforts' music department, which features plenty of old-fashioned, if not just plain archived diddies of a jazzy or country nature that, while somewhat underused, entertain quite a bit when they show up, while Jeanine Tesori's score work colors up atmosphere with soulful compliments, in spite of minimalism and conventionalism. The film's musical tastes aren't outstanding, but they are clever, looking not to sell some kind of lame soundtrack like oh so many other films of type, but to grace resonance with colorful enhancements that gain your attention, while such aspects as, of all things, the writing, go so far as to earn your investment. Like I said, Nick Sparks' concept hamstrings the efforts of screenwriters Ann Peacock and John Romano, suffering from characterization, originality and dramatic subtlety flaws that can never truly be wiped away, and must stick with the final product as the things that prevent it from breaking out of some moderate degree of underwhelmingness, but what is done right in Peacock's and Romano's script cannot be ignored, being colorful with its punch-up, and still somewhat juicy in its characterization, which faces its share of natural shortcomings, but ultimately overcomes conflicts just enough to breathe genuineness into a dramatically flawed character study. The film's script is imperfect, but stronger than expected, as is the film's direction, for although George C. Wolfe, the director behind the acclaimed broadway debut of "Angels in America", can do only so much to fight back natural shortcomings in the dramatic department, he earns your investment with a toughtful atmosphere, punctuated by glimpses at what this film could have been, as seen through unexpected moments of genuine emotional resonance, which gives intrigue juice and dramatic bites an almost, if not decidedly piercing firmness. It takes a while for the film to really kick dramatically, as reflected by its final rating's not being as strong as the final product's higher notes, but make no mistake, the patient are bound to be rewarded with effective dramatic beats that, while too underexplored to save the film as rewarding on the whole, still stand, backed by inspired writing, direction and, of course, acting, something that is strong through and through. The acting isn't exactly stellar, as we are still dealing with a conceptually undercooked drama, yet this film's strong cast is ultimately put to generally good use, featuring such underused show-stealers as a particularly charming Viola Davis, a humanly subtly emotional Scott Glenn and even a surprisingly rather layered Mae Whitman, while being headed by a pair of strong leads, with Diane Lane being convincing as a woman who grows to find new revelation in life through new love, which in turns breathes new life into the initially quiet and guilty, and eventually humanly changed Paul Flanner character who Richard Gere portrays with subtle emotional range and genuine layers. If nothing else, our leads are charismatic, and such when their charismas clash, you end up with very strong chemistry that leaves this film to succeed in its noble efforts as a character study, and while the final product is still to naturally flawed to be as good as it almost is, it is underappreciated, having enough inspiration and strength to border on all-out strong, and decidedly achieve quite a bit of unexpected enjoyability.
At the end of the day... or nights, or whatever, dry spells slow down the momentum of the film's engagement value, though not as much as some characterization issues that leave you to meditate upon the conventionalism within Nicholas Sparks' characters, while histrionic occasions leave you to meditate upon the conventionalism within Sparks' story, which may be well-interpreted on the screen, but ultimately boasts too many natural shortcomings to escape some degree of underwhelmingness, though not so many shortcomings that you can't appreciate what is, in fact, done right, whether it be the strong soundtrack and score, or the inspired writing and direction that crafts enough meat and emotional resonance behind substance - anchored by a strong cast, from which leads Diane Lane and Richard Gere stand out as layered, charismatic and with strong chemistry - to make "Nights in Rodanthe" an albeit quite flawed, but occasionally resonant, often compelling and consistently enjoyable romantic drama.
2.75/5 - Decent