Midnight Bayou – Nora Roberts’ Midnight Bayou (2009)
Directed by: Ralph Hemecker | 92 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Jerry O’Connell, Lauren Stamile, Faye Dunaway, Isabella Hoffman, Alan Ritchson, Ashley LeConte Campbell, Bianca Malino, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, Chris Lindsay, Ciera Payton, Shawn Carter Peterson, Stephanie Honore, David Jensen
After a night of partying at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Declan Fitzpatrick (Jerry O’Connell) is returning to Boston with friends in a convertible. Out of nowhere a woman suddenly appears in the middle of the road. Declan urges his friend to stop. But after the convertible comes to a stop, the woman is nowhere to be seen. Coincidentally, they stop at the gate of the Manet Hall estate. Declan firmly believes he has really seen someone and investigates the abandoned yard of the grand mansion. Declan’s friends go after him, but soon get the nerves of this haunted place. They threaten to let Declan walk home if he doesn’t follow them soon.
After the above fragment, you see New Orleans eight years later. People in the city are still busy rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. At an eatery, Lena Simone (Lauren Stamile) gives some directions to her staff before leaving the place. Today she pays another visit to her grandmother (Faye Dunaway) who lives in the bayou. Grandma delivers the surprising news that the mansion at Manet Hall has been sold and orders Lena to welcome the owner with cornbread. Lena resists at first, but she still pays Grandma’s new neighbor a visit. It is the prelude to a series of events that will turn Lena’s life upside down…
‘Midnight Bayou’ contains the familiar ingredients that Nora Roberts often uses for her stories. Romance never runs smoothly in Roberts’ books, there is always an obstacle that must be overcome before the two lovers finally find each other. Earlier Roberts films such as ‘Montana Sky’ and ‘Carolina Moon’ centered on women. But what is striking about ‘Midnight Bayou’ is that the focus is mainly on the male character instead of the woman. This time the man must suffer the most to win the love of his life and at the same time uncover the intrigue surrounding the estate.
In ‘Midnight Bayou’ the mysterious history of the former inhabitants of Manet Hall is cleverly juxtaposed with moments from the present. These transitions are well portrayed so that you, like Declan, are sucked into the past tense. Slowly the facts that once happened in the mansion unravel.
Arousing curiosity about the fate of chambermaid Abigail and brothers Lucian and Julian is the main strength of ‘Midnight Bayou’. The spun romance between Lena and Declan does not spark well off the screen. The actors lack the chemistry that should make it credible that they can form a set. The amusing point of the story is that Declan turns to Lena’s grandmother for tips on how to get her granddaughter on a date. Faye Dunaway is visibly having fun in the role of ‘mediator’ between the two struggling bachelors and is nice and jovial.
‘Midnight Bayou’ is in short: romance in which fragments of a mystery of an otherworldly nature break through the sweetness. Delicious food for the fans of Nora Roberts and the romantics among us who can appreciate such an average television film. But if you want a real romantic film, it is better to leave ‘Midnight Bayou’ behind. The movie just isn’t.