½*/**** Image A- Sound A Extras C
starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Scott Glenn, Christopher Meloni
screenplay by Ann Peacock and John Romano, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks
directed by George C. Wolfe
by Walter Chaw I will say this about Nights in Rodanthe: spoken Nicholas Sparks is preferable to written Nicholas Sparks, because when people speak, complete sentences and thoughts that go somewhere aren't necessarily at a premium. If there was ever an artist ill-suited for his chosen medium, it's Sparks; and if there was ever proof (as if proof were needed after the success of Robert James Waller, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz) that cuddling ignorance was a growth industry, well, there's Sparks again. And here, as further cause for divorce from the great nation of culturally-retarded people who have always comprised our metaphorical heartland, is the fourth adaptation of a bound stable of Sparks's saccharine logorrhoea (Gertrude Stein in practice in the unlikeliest of places), Nights in Rodanthe, which, in the great tradition of pieces of shit, is exactly like every other piece of shit in every other genre. (Be thankful, at least, that the picture, in a futile attempt to separate itself from The Notebook, jettisons the novel's framing device, that great staple of books by people like Sparks and Mitch Albom--in so doing depriving some dusty, geriatric, beloved television star one last paycheck.) Helpless before the towering majesty of the formula god it worships, the picture plays out like a slasher pic for girls, where the only sport is trying to figure out which of the heroes is going to die, how, when, and by what grievous hand. I'd argue that the catharsis parceled out by garbage like this is identical to the "happy ending" whored out by lower-aspiring slasher cinema: the curiosity about the hows is delicious--and perverse. If you think I've dropped a spoiler, by the way, you haven't seen Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, or The Notebook, and--more than likely--you're not going to see Nights in Rodanthe, either.