Okay, I've got to kick this blog off by saying calling Nights in Rodanthe a 'Must Watch' experience is probably over-selling it a touch. But as a girls' night in flick with a nice bottle of Pouilly Fume, a large bar of Green and Black's almond chocolate and a small box of kleenex on hand you could do a lot worse (and I frequently have!).
So let's get the gripes out the way first. Why is calling it Must Watch, over-selling it?
Well, for starters, this isn't exactly feel-good viewing. I don't want to give away the big twist ending, but if you remember this is based on a Nicholas Sparks bestseller, and if you also remember what he did to poor old Kevin Costner in Message in a Bottle, I think you can guess what's not gonna happen.
That's right, if you're waiting for a nice big gift-wrapped Happy Ever After at the end of this baby. Forget it. For that you'll have to rely on your Green and Blacks.
And after watching this film, I did have one other little gripe. If you're going to set a romantic drama in a beautiful clapboard house on a glorious Carolina beach, why the heck would you shoot almost the entire movie on a set? And a pretty obvious set at that? I thought that was a shame and a great big missed opportunity. But maybe that's just me being picky?
So let's put the moaning and groaning aside — and talk about what is to like here?
First off, Mr Sparks knows how to tell a story and the filmmakers here have made a pretty good fist of doing the same (at least I think they have, because I haven't read this book). And they've been helped in no small part by their leads.
Richard Gere - looking even more steely haired and steely eyed than in Pretty Woman - as a surgeon who ends up in Diane Lane's out-of-season boarding house.
And the redoubtable Ms Lane herself - who I've always liked ever since she appeared in The Outsiders. What's not to like about an actress who's grown older with us gracefully and can still command lead parts after the age of forty (no small feat in Hollywood these days if you're not Meryl Streep)?
The story is simple and poignant and dramatic in all the right places and only slips into melodrama in the final reel - and that's only because people sending letters to each other never works as well on film as it does on the page. After all, how many shots can you have of a woman mooning over a love letter with the voice-over narration in the background before you start to nod off? Oops, I'm slipping into gripe mode again and I didn't mean to.
So, what's the story?
First up we have Richard Gere's divorced, ruggedly handsome and self-contained surgeon (what we'll call a subtle, ever so slightly tortured alpha) who's busy struggling with his God complex after a woman has died on his operating table. He's in Diane's neck of the woods, and is the only guest staying at her boarding house because he's been asked to meet with the woman's grief-stricken husband and he's hoping to fend off a lawsuit.
And then there's Diane who's actually only minding the house for her best friend so she can get away for a while and consider her manipulative ex-husband's request that she take him back (the suspicion being that his bit on the side has kicked him out).
A few quiet dinners, too much wine, a local barbeque, a hurricane and a game of can-tossing in the pantry later and Dick and Diane are busy discovering that maybe their love lives don't suck quite as much as they thought.
Really, it's all very sweet and fairly undemanding (until they go home and start writing too many letters to each other) and it's played with considerable skill by these two seasoned vets. And if you're a Richard Gere fan you'll want to add a couple of extra marks.
Warm and fuzzy rating: A very respectable 6 out of 10.
Heidi's busy doing a happy dance at the moment, because her March Presents, Pleasure, Pregnancy And A Proposition, has just hit the Waldies top spot two weeks on the trot!
Her next M&B Modern Heat, Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal is due out in June and will become a Presents in September.
And she's currently tearing her hair out (while also doing her happy dance, who says she can't multi-task) over her next book, which was due in a month ago and still isn't finished! Arghhh.