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By Matt Brunson

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FEELING BLUE: Diane Lane in Nights in Rodanthe.

NIGHTS IN RODANTHE

DIRECTED BY George C. Wolfe

STARS Richard Gere, Diane Lane

Diane Lane and the Tuscan countryside prove to be a more dynamic duo than Diane Lane and the Outer Banks, an assertion that immediately becomes clear when placing Under the Tuscan Sun and Nights in Rodanthe side by side. Neither film, of course, could be accused of basking in originality, but the former at least made the most of its setting and its star, resulting in a winning romantic comedy whose love-struck spirit rubbed off on audience members eager to lap up its sense of joie de vivre. The coastal-Carolina-shot Rodanthe, on the other hand, starts off well as Tuscan Sun’s more serious-minded cousin, but it eventually sinks under the weight of the shameless plot devices thrust upon it by author Nicholas Sparks and adapters Ann Peacock and John Romano.

Lane, teaming with Richard Gere for the third time (following 1984’s The Cotton Club and 2002’s Unfaithful, the latter for which she deservedly earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination), plays Adrienne Willis, who agrees to look after her best friend’s (Viola Davis) beachfront inn at the same time that her philandering husband (Christopher Meloni) is begging her to let him come back. Gere co-stars as Paul Flanner, a doctor brooding over a minor surgery procedure that went tragically wrong. As the only two people stuck at the inn, Adrienne and Paul open up to each other and gradually fall in love.

For a while, Nights in Rodanthe works as a mature and even touching drama — look for a powerful appearance by Scott Glenn as a grieving widower — but then the melodramatic devices take over with the force of a hurricane. And speaking of hurricane, the second-act emergence of this force of nature is but one of the hoary aspects that sink the production, along with a sour twist that is as expected as it is defeatist. Astonishingly, acclaimed Broadway director George C. Wolfe (Angels in America) chose this project to mark his big-screen debut, but the end result is strictly water-logged.

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