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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nights in Rodanthe

This weekend I saw the movie Nights in Rodanthe at the Essex Cinemas, all about a couple finding romance and love together while spending a few days off-season as the only people staying in a fabulous Bed and Breakfast along the coast of North Carolina. A few years ago my perfect husband and I also spent a week off season at an inn on the beach in North Carolina but all I came home with was a case of crabs. Isn’t that pathetic? They were delicious, but that’s a sure sign you’ve been married a loooong time when you come back from a holiday away and the only thing the two of you talk about or remember is the food you ate and the restaurants you ate it in. Sigh. My husband can tell you every single meal he has ever eaten and where he consumed it, but he would be hard-pressed to tell you what we did on our last anniversary (unless it involved going out to dinner, which it didn’t this year because I was sick in bed and he was forced to order in).

Romance is one of those things that movies sell but real life doesn’t necessarily bear out quite the same. In movies like
Nights in Rodanthe, people over a certain age all look like Richard Gere and Diane Lane. In actuality, most men Gere’s age, 59, begin losing their hair or teeth or both by this time, and the mothers like Lane plays, at 43, welcome that middle-age spread that calls out for “mom jeans,” but neither of these stars show a hint of these hindrances. Gere is still ruggedly handsome and is as fit as he was during his
American Gigolo heyday twenty eight years ago. As for Lane, she looks like the perfect MILF… well, not by me, personally, but by a whole lot of men I know and even a couple of women for that matter. I found that out when I went to see the movie with my dear friend Corbett and her partner Arlene. I was shocked to my very cankles that a couple of lesbians would have any desire to see a “chick flick” about a middle-aged woman falling for a hot geezer in North Carolina, but they did. Now before you start going “Oh, but Clammy, 43 is not middle-aged!” I will tell you that I am not a math whiz, but, Darlings, 43 is half of 86 and I’d say for most of us 86 is pretty much close to pulling into the station, which is why they call it “the terminal” and so if 86 is the end then half of it would be the middle, ergo the “middle age.” I rest my case. But I digress.

So my Sapphic sisters came along to see the movie because they love a love story like the rest of us and, let’s face it, mainstream cinema rarely showcases any lesbian romances, but, then again, how many Home Depots are located right on the crashing surf of a beautiful beach. The shore at Rodanthe is absolutely irresistible, especially once you see a certain gorgeous modern mansion built on its sands. It’s this place that plays the central role of The Inn at Rodanthe, a B&B run by Jean (Viola Davis; Disturbia), who is the best friend of Adrienne Willis, the character played by Diane Lane (Jumper). When Jean asks Adrienne to relieve her in the off-season for a few days so she can get away on a mini-vacation of her own, Adrienne is happy to oblige. Who wouldn’t in her situation? She is tormented at home by cheating husband Jack (Christopher Meloni; tv’s “Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit”), who she’s tossed out, but who is now hounding her to come home, a teenage daughter, Amanda (Mae Whitman; Boogeyman 2), whose favorite phrase of the moment is “I hate you,” and a pre-teen son, Danny (Charlie Tahan; I Am Legend) who cries more than he talks. I’m surprised Adrienne doesn’t just hand Jack the keys, grab a bottle of Scotch, and never come back.

She does, however, agree to take over this eye-popping inn for four days, which is guaranteed to be a breeze since there is only one guest scheduled to visit during that time. That guest of course, turns out, to be Richard Gere (The Flock), in the person of Dr. Paul Flanner, who comes with more baggage than just carries his clothes.

What’s a gal to do but play the mother, and, before you know it, Adrienne is making the doctor laugh for the first time in ages, and she hasn’t even gotten naked yet. Eventually he reveals all his woes to her, which makes her pre-menopausal heart race, and then th
e weather turns nasty because there is nothing better for ratcheting up the call for sex than extreme weather. I’m surprised there wasn’t a huge baby boom after Katrina because as soon as a hurricane hits Rodanthe these two hit the sheets. It’s a little known fact, but hurricanes are only the second most arousing form of weather. Tornados come in first. It may be that shape that has something Freudian to do with it, but few people realize that in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy was positively *wet* with excitement all along her trip to the Emerald City. That explains why the Scarecrow kept slipping and falling down on the yellow brick road.

Anyway, much drama transpires in
Nights in Rodanthe that has Paul and Adrienne challenging one another, helping each other overcome their preconceived notions of who they are and what they can be so that they become much better people for having known one another in those four days and nights. Then, alas, the time comes when they must part ways, but with a promise to reunite in the near future.

Of course, like any allegedly good Harlequin Romance (if such a thing exists), much more happens after that which makes for “chick flick” satisfaction. There are fits of tears, resolution of family problems, and things that will have the audience weeping at all the right times and for all the right reasons. God, it is exhausting, but at least the original score (by Jeanine Tesori; Shrek the Third) is beautiful to listen to while you are being emotionally tossed about.

Nights in Rodanthe is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook, if that gives you a better idea of its pedigree, and is directed by George C. Wolfe (Lackawanna Blues), who is better known for his Broadway work, but who does an admirable job here wringing the story for every drop of emotion it can. Gere and Lane have perfect chemistry as they have proved before in collaborations on Unfaithful and The Cotton Club. They act together seamlessly. Unfortunately, it’s not for everyone ~ my husband grumbled about going and he’s perfect, but he saw it for what it is, a throwback to what were called “women’s pictures” in the 1950s and ‘60s, pure anathema to men in general, so I didn’t force the issue. I just brought tissue.

After the movie was over I lamented to Corbett and Arlene that it was a nice movie but did they
notice that the audience was full of “blue-haired old ladies.” “Why,” I wondered, “did these movies always center on women past 40? They never made ‘chick flicks’ aimed at younger women.” My pals shrugged at that question but Corbett did point out that when I was referring to the “rest” of the audience as “blue-haired old ladies” I should remember that we were now in that demographic as well, Lady Clairol or not. Friends can be so damned cruel. I would have slapped her right then and there, but I was afraid I might fall and break a hip.

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