Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) still live in the Australian coastal town where they grew up as friends, their lives unfolding in parallel. They each have teenaged sons and their boys follow in their footsteps, surfing together while they lie on the beach, marveling at their handsome progeny. But when Roz's husband Harold (Ben Mendelsohn, "Animal Kingdom") gets a job in Sydney and leaves for two weeks to scout out their future, the women are left alone with the boys they both "Adore."
With all the recent flap about the casting of "Fifty Shades of Gray," here is a film that gives a whole new definition to the phrase 'mommy porn.' Shot like a perfume commercial crossed with a Calvin Klein ad (by cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, "Coco Before Chanel"), the film made me feel a bit nauseous with its smirky incestuousness when I wasn't slapping my hand onto my forehead. Only Robin Wright (and to a lesser extent Mendelsohn, the chameleon) comes out of this with dignity intact, giving a performance the material doesn't warrant. French director Anne Fontaine, making her English language debut, has made a movie I warrant even French actress Isabelle Huppert, who gravitates towards sexually depraved roles, would sniff at.
After establishing Roz and Lil's friendship and Lil's widowhood, we come to the present, where Roz is rejecting the idea of a move to Sydney. Husband Harold posits that she's got more of a relationship with Lil than with him. The two women giggle over this, but it's not the first time they'll be charged with lesbianism. So what better way to cement their love than by sleeping with each others' teenaged son? It all begins when Lil's son Ian (Xavier Samuel, "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse") joins Roz on their swimming dock to flirtatiously share a cigarette ('I feel sinful,' says Roz). Later that night, after dinner and dirty dancing at Roz's, Ian offers to stay to take care of his buddy, Roz's son Tom (James Frecheville, "Animal Kingdom"), but he has an ulterior motive and when Tom gets up in the middle of the night, he sees his mom leaving his friend's bedroom with her jeans in her hand. What to do but go over to Lil's for revenge?
And there lies only one of this film's many problems. Ian is a self-absorbed sensitive type, always mooning over Roz, but Tom and Lil's resultant relationship never seems based on anything at all. Lil quickly blossoms with her renewed sexual appetite (an age appropriate suitor has been kept at arm's length, then turned down by committee!) after the two first agree that what they've done is wrong, then decide to throw caution to the winds. Because, after all, this thing must run its course, right? When it does, it does so in such ludicrous fashion as to make what's come before seem almost logical in comparison.
Christopher Hampton ("Atonement," "A Dangerous Method") adapted the novella by Doris Lessing with no success in elevating the story or dialogue. And while Wright creates an interesting character, Watts only projects light heartedness or neediness depending on narrative swings. Samuel is simply awful and I while I didn't even recognize Frecheville from his remarkable debut, at least he comes off as something approaching real if motivationally rudderless. As the younger women who enter the boys' lives, Jessica Tovey is OK but Sophie Lowe is opaque.
"Adore" is the cinematic equivalent of a trashy beach read disguised with pretty cover art. However it would be a stretch to equate it with guilty pleasure.
Robin gives "Adore" a D.
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