DVD Release Date:  February 10, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  September 26, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (some sensuality)
Genre:  Romance, Drama, Adaptation
Run Time:  97 min.
Director:  George C. Wolfe
Actors:  Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis, James Franco, Scott Glenn, Linda Molloy, Pablo Schreiber

As any fan of Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling books already knows, a serious stash of tissues is often helpful to have along for the ride. And for those wondering, yes, the big-screen adaptation of Nights in Rodanthe is just as much of a tearjerker as the novel was. To prove my point, the whimpers and sniffles from the largely female crowd were in full force at my particular screening, while a handful of brave husbands and boyfriends shifted around uncomfortably in their chairs.

Unlike 2004’s The Notebook, probably Sparks’ most famous work that translated beautifully to film and was even a guilty pleasure for many male viewers (one of my pastors reluctantly admitted to our congregation just this past Sunday that he thoroughly enjoyed the sob-fest), Nights in Rodanthe will be a much tougher sell to the alpha male contingency because of its plodding pace and melodramatic, made-for-TV storyline. Fortunately for Sparks and everyone else involved with the production, many chick-flick fans will probably be happily in their element.

Making the most of their onscreen chemistry they had in 1984’s The Cotton Club and 2002’s Unfaithful, Richard Gere and Diane Lane do the best they can with an uneven screenplay that seriously lacks in both pacing and plot. But the almost old-fashioned quality about the movie, complete with sumptuous visuals of the North Carolina shoreline, an epic musical score and a love story between two very broken people that starts during a stormy weekend in Rodanthe and continues through a series of heartfelt letters (yes letters, not e-mails), almost wins you over.

Almost.

After all, there’s only so much that Gere and Lane can do with such narrowly drawn characters, Dr. Paul Flanner and Adrienne Willis, respectively. Paul is a fabulously wealthy, renowned surgeon who traded family life for his successful medical practice long ago and has finally decided to make peace with two painful parts of his past—reconnecting with the son he hasn’t spoken to in a year, Mark (James Franco in an uncredited cameo) and meeting with Robert Torrelson (Scott Glenn), the husband of a woman who unexpectedly died on the operating table during a surgery he performed. So after selling his home in Raleigh and packing only a few of his belongings in the requisite. midlife-crisis sports car, Paul makes his way to the small North Carolina town of Rodanthe, where Mr. Torrelson lives.

Meanwhile, Adrienne is also facing a potentially life-altering debacle. After her husband Jack (Christopher Meloni) cheated on her with her ex-best friend for the past seven months, he’s now decided that he wants to come home and start over with Adrienne. While Adrienne’s rebellious teenage daughter and young son keep persuading her to say yes for the sake of the family, she believes the wisest course is to pause and give it some serious thought. Then in a way-too-convenient plot twist, Adrienne’s friend asks her to watch over her bed and breakfast in Rodanthe while she’s out of town for the weekend. And before long, Adrienne has a moment straight out of Under the Tuscan Sun, a 2003 flick in which Lane also starred, and decides it’s the perfect opportunity to clear her mind, gain some clarity and eventually make the right decision.