Fans of the sweetheart novels of Nicholas Sparks know what they like: the big emotions, the dramatic heartbreaks, the author's earnest belief in the sanctity of family, letter-writing, North Carolina, and narrative flashback. But even keepers of the Sparks flame are likely to have their spirits dampened by the wind-rattled, Diane Lane and Richard Gere encrusted adaptation of Nights in Rodanthe. Here, a storm surge of love overtakes Lane and Gere as two middle-aged gorgeous people wounded veterans of marriage who are the only occupants of a house-goods-to-die-for seaside inn on North Carolina's Outer Banks. On a fateful weekend. In hurricane season.
Although Ann Peacock and John Romano's script does away with the author's wave-crashing, forward-and-backward storytelling structure and many secondary details, the basics are all from the book. (In other words, like it or get your crab lumps elsewhere.) What's unique to the movie, though, and what tires out even a receptive student of the Bridges of Madison County school of weepies, is a desperate colorfulness overlaid by director George C. Wolfe a busyness in everything from set decor to acting style to the way the romance-ified shots are strung together. Reunited after Unfaithful (and, before that, The Cotton Club), Lane and Gere mime adult courtship with the efficiency of synchronized swimmers. Yet in this ocean of emotion, they look like they're drowning. C–