There's a scene in Nights in Rodanthe that speaks to the power of love, loss and forgiveness better than any other. The passion of the two characters involved is so strong that it makes you forget a bit about a story line you've seen several times before.
Ironically, that singularly powerful scene isn't between the romantic leads, Richard Gere and Diane Lane. It's between Gere and veteran actor Scott Glenn. Gere plays the doctor who performed routine surgery on Glenn's wife, who died on the operating table. Glenn is the distraught husband and father who agrees to meet with Gere at his home in Rodanthe, N.C., a small vacation and fishing community.
The scene, like the film, is about dealing with the loss of something so close to you that you're just sure the hole in your heart is beyond repair. But as we all know, in romance movies set on beautiful North Carolina beaches in hurricane season, that's never the case.
Lane portrays a divorced mother of two who agrees to fill in for a life-long friend running her inn-on-stilts built right on the North Carolina tide-line. Just as Lane's about to leave to attend to the inn's lone guest -- Gere -- her cheating, lying ex-husband (Law and Order SVU's Christopher Meloni) announces that he wants to reconcile and come home.
So as Lane's Adrienne Willis meets Gere's Dr. Paul Flannery, she has a big decision to make. And he's in the middle of a crisis himself: Recently divorced, he's sold his home, left his practice and is facing a wrongful death suit filed by Glenn and his son. Meanwhile, he's on his way to Ecuador to try to reconcile with his son (James Franco), who runs a small clinic in the mountains.
The story line is as contrived as you can get -- two emotionally wounded strangers stuck in a storm (literally and figuratively) are thrown together in a romantic locale with a second chance at love.
But here's the thing about the film (which is the big-screen directorial debut for Broadway icon George C. Wolfe). It doesn't really matter that you've seen it before. It doesn't matter that you know Lane and Gere will end up hooking up to ease their pain and suffering. It doesn't matter because, as a whole, the film works very well.
Yes, the scene between Gere and Glenn is fantastic. But countless scenes between Gere and Lane are exceptional too: These are two wonderful actors who complement one another remarkably. Their characters are believable, powerful, likable and vulnerable. And the story, by author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook), offers enough surprises to make it worth your time, even though it tends to drag once the film leaves the beach house.
Don't get me wrong: This is a chick flick through and through. But it's a really good one with great performances and enough substance to satisfy anyone.