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Carly at the Movies: Pretty dreary ‘Nights in Rodanthe’

Column by Carl Larsen

“Nights in Rodanthe” is the fifth novel by Nicholas Sparks to be adapted for the screen, and it’s a natural disaster in more ways than one.

Diane Lane and Richard Gere star in a film that’s light on believability and heavy on emotional baggage. And the fact that they were so good together in ‘Unfaithful’ (2002) only heightens the disappointment.

Although a majority of film critics warned us that this was a hunk o’ junk, I was anxious to see it. My wife and I had vacationed in Rodanthe a number of times, so this seemed like a cheapo way to dredge up some pleasant memories. Last time I’ll try that, for sure.

Lane and Gere have such slick and easy chemistry that they almost carried it off, but were overwhelmed by a preposterous plot and murky symbolism, along with some twists that only a lover of romance novels could swallow.

Lane plays an artist (well, she makes wooden boxes) turned ritzy suburban housewife who housesits a pal’s inn on the outer banks for a weekend, just to get away and think about her estranged husband’s offer to come home. She’s also kinda sad because her teenage daughter hates her guts. (Now there’s a twist.) Gere is a noble doctor who shows up to rent a room and wrestle with his conscience after a standard surgery goes wrong.

They chit-chat awhile, a big storm comes up, so naturally they fall both in love and into the sack. Hurricanes’ll do that for ya. The semi-tragic, semi-mystical, wholly unbelievable ending is perfect for Sparks’ fans but pretty dreary for us normal human beings. I won’t reveal the ending. You wouldn’t believe me, anyway.

A lot of the houses on the rapidly-disappearing outer banks are built on stilts, and it’s pretty scary when a big wind comes up and they start to sway. But any kind of movement would have been welcomed in this tearjerker. And the fact that rich folks have problems, too, was very touching. Why, I almost burst into tears when Gere’s fancy foreign racing car got a dented fender.

For reasons now lost in antiquity, I have seen all of the films, so far, that have been made from the novels of Nicholas Sparks. “The Notebook,” I must admit, was excellent. Equally unbelievable, but excellent. But “Nights in Rodanthe” is the last, I swear, even though he has another one in the works for next year, called “Dear John.” So this is my Dear John letter to Mr. Sparks, probably the greatest novelist ever to come out of Omaha.

Although totally forgettable, memories of this film will linger with me for months, while I try to figure out the sappy symbolism of those galloping wild horses.

On the plus side, well, the scenery is nice.

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