Thursday, September 25, 2008
Diane Lane Naked
I can’t remember what tipped me off. What I do remember is that the first time I saw the trailer for Nights In Rodanthe, I figured out much earlier than I should have that the film is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. As in, long before horses go galloping down a white-sanded beach, and well before a single character cries and even before Richard Gere puts on his Poignant Face. Which means I had it pegged in about 5 seconds. I’m not sure what it was that triggered me, but the stench of Sparks’ goopy sentimentality announced itself from around the corner like a garbage truck on a humid summer day. Yick.
Like Righteous Kill last week, Nights In Rodanthe is a movie I won’t be seeing. Not opening weekend. Not ever. My aversion in this case isn’t to the Sparks-inspired material (though I can’t say it helps) but to seeing Gere opposite Diane Lane. Again. This is the third time the actors have shared the screen together, and it’s one time too many. Only six years ago, almost two decades removed from their first pairing in The Cotton Club, Lane and Gere starred in Unfaithful, the Adrian Lyne-directed meditation on love, passion, fidelity and ethics, with some Hitchcockian (and I’m not using that term lazily) flare on the side. And it’s with that film that our lasting impression of the Gere-Lane pairing should stay.
Though Gere’s singing and dancing as Chicago’s Billy Flynn drew him raves, Unfaithful provided him with one of his finest performances of at least the last 15 years – the American Gigolo proving refreshingly vulnerable in the sweaters of Ed Sumner, the working dad who excels in the office but is clumsy with the home video camera. Watching Gere’s Ed clean up the mess at the apartment of Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez) is to see him become the quintessential Hitchcockian everyman. It’s one of the few times in recent memory that Gere has shed the Poignant Face for anything else, adopting in its place the terrified expression of a child who has done wrong. It works.
Alas, Gere’s performance in Unfaithful is hardly remembered because Lane’s performance is so unforgettable. Simply put, she carries the film in what must be the most versatile and visceral performance of her career. Her Connie Sumner is a woman at war with herself, stuck between infatuation and dedication, struggling to determine the direction in which her heart leads and whether she has the courage to follow it. Notable, of course, are Unfaithful’s vital sex scenes, in which Lane is without clothes. Devastating, though, is the scene when Connie rides home on the train after her first tryst with Paul, where we see her overcome with conflicting emotions that wash across her face like waves. In an altogether dynamic performance, it's in that scene that Lane is truly naked – entirely without armor.
The following images are a tribute to better days*
* Note: In the film itself, we alternate between the images above and those chronicling Connie’s first tryst. In the interest of brevity, I left out the images of Lane in bed (sorry, fellas), even though her performance demonstrates a similar gravity and range: terrified, invigorated, ashamed, exhilarated. Having said that, take note that you needn’t actually see Connie in bed with Paul to know how the first episode went and how she feels about it. Ten minutes of exposition couldn’t accomplish what Lane conveys above.