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.


Fox said...

Great post Jason! whew...

First, I like your dissection of Gere in that movie. I kind of like not liking him in that movie b/c I don't like him in real life.

As far as Lane, well... sexiest movie MILF ever? Sorry to reduce that great actress to such crudity, but gosh! The stills you posted of her are brilliant. Is it me, or is the something erotic about the small cut on her knee?

LiteralDan said...

I agree with your assessment of the acting in this movie, but still it was an uncomfortable one for me to watch. Which was probably at least partly the goal.

Also, this is possibly the greatest title of a post ever-- in fact, I'm tempted to make it my go-to title whenever I can't think of a better one.

Jason Bellamy said...

Fox: I've never been much of a fan of Gere's acting, and his real-life persona doesn't help any. But he's quite effective in "Unfaithful." The character makes some of his acting weaknesses into strengths.

(Oh: When it comes to Diane Lane, everything is erotic. And she wasn't always in the MILF category: go back and watch "The Outsiders.")

Dan: Thanks for the comment. As for the title: I like it, too, if for no other reason than the thought of how it's going to piss off some horny guys when they get this post in a late-night Google search.

Richard Bellamy said...

Wow! Those shots of Lane! Masterful, and you're right, Jason, it would be enough to see her varied expressions to know what she has done.

The knee - yes, the knee is erotic.

I have no intention of seeing "Nights in Rodanthe" though I've seen large numbers of women buying tickets for it this weekend at the cineplex. If you're looking for a truly romantic movie with Diane Lane, check out her debut (I think) as a young teen in love with a boy in Paris in "A Little Romance"

elgringo said...

This. Is. My. Favorite. Post. Ever. Written. By. Anyone. Ever.


PIPER said...

That is a well done scene, but I would have to give the upper-hand to Gere in this movie. Restraint is oft overlooked and I think Gere did an excellent job here.

To me, the bigger issue with this movie is the subject matter. I am by no means a prude, but as a married man with children I found no entertainment value in this movie and I use the word entertainment as a broad stroke here.

This was not a female version of Fatal Attraction. This was a much more emotional look at a struggling relationship. And for that reason, I couldn't dismiss it as an entertaining thriller. Or a sexy drama.

There are lots of people who really liked this movie, married and unmarried and I guess I scratched my head mostly as it relates to the married people. It is maybe the worst case scenario a married person could imagine.

And this is not coming from a man who suffers any insecurities as far as his relationship is concerned. It's just a bigger issue, one that I am seeing more often in movies. The Horse Whisperer and Bridges of Madison County come to mind.

I am very open to movies and there would be lots of objections to some of the stuff that I enjoy, but I enjoy them because in the end I can dismiss them as entertainment in one form or the other. This movie didn't feel like that and maybe that's a good thing. But not for me.

Daniel said...

I agree that this is a powerful scene. I believe it was filmed in one take as well, or some such interesting note of trivia.

Richard Gere's performance, as you rightly describe, is maybe one of the most underrated of the decade. I didn't catch a false note from him the entire time.

Jason Bellamy said...

I always love seeing new names in the comments section. Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.

E.C.: So if I understand this correctly, you don't really have a problem with the film, you just couldn't 'enjoy' it because it seemed too ... real? Not sure that's the right word. Visceral?

I've had that experience before, too. I suppose what I'm drawn to in "Unfaithful" more than anything is the push-pull effect of the affair on Connie (Lane). What we see in those images from the train ride is a snapshot of the emotional battle she endures the entire film.

It's interesting, too, because sometimes as an audience it's hard to tell what we're rooting for. Gere's husband may not be perfect, but he doesn't deserve to be cheated on. Meanwhile, Lane's joy being with Paul is infectious. At least it was for me. You might disagree. Anyway, it leads to some fantastic moments ...

When Lane tries to call off the affair, we feel that it's right, and we root for her to do it on those grounds. And yet there's sadness because we know the loss that the end of the affair will bring.

"Unfaithful" has some mainstream thriller elements to it. But Lane and Gere give it a gritty dramatic depth that few films match. I can see why it would make some people uncomfortable. I watch it at least once a year.