In my mind, Nights in Rodanthe is one of the few Nicholas Sparks novels not about puppy love, but about second-chance love, the kind of love that comes later in life. This is the story of Adrienne and Paul, who meet while trying to both deal with and escape from their own lives by spending a weekend at an inn on a beach in Rodanthe.
It’s a story of love, loss, and hope for a future later in life. However, the general plotline is about the only thing that is accurately translated from book to movie. The storytelling and circumstances are different. In the book, Adrienne is retelling the story of she and Paul to her daughter years after the relationship ends. In the movie, we never see that fast-forwarded timeline.
But the biggest change is that in the book, Adrienne takes the weekend to get away from her children, sick father, and remarried ex-husband. In the movie, her father has already died, and what’s stranger, she is not divorced from her husband. In fact, in the opening scene of the movie, the two are estranged after her husband had an infidelity, and he (Law and Order: SVU‘s Christopher Meloni) is now pathetically begging her to take him back.
It sounds like a minor detail, but there are a number of issues with this change; this turns Adrienne’s romantic lovefest of a weekend with Paul into a full-on affair because, after all, she is still married. Of course her marriage is failing, and this relationship makes her realize why she shouldn’t get back together with her husband. But nonetheless, it makes her a cheater, and that does nothing to help her character.
The other problem is that it was so far from how the book was written, it felt forced — as though the directors were just trying to find a way to give Chris Meloni a more substantial role in the movie because he’s a familiar face.
Speaking of familiar faces, the casting in the film was excellent. Diane Lane plays a fun, awkward, and overwhelmed Adrienne. Richard Gere is perfect as the stoic Paul who then becomes a better man. Even James Franco gives a solid performance as Paul’s son, Mark — though the role is minor.
But like almost every other Nicholas Sparks book that becomes a movie, it just doesn’t feel quite right. The story is too rushed. There’s not enough background. Knowing what we know about the characters’ history and experiences in the book makes the rest of the story more believable. However, in the movie, there’s simply not enough time to give a clear telling of those back stories.
Instead of logical and steady, the relationship between Adrienne and Paul seems random and too much too soon. The passion comes across onscreen, but the story feels all kinds of unrealistic.