NAOMI WATTS ROBIN WRIGHT XAVIER SAMUELS JAMES FRECHEVILLE BEN MENDELSOHN
I can understand why this is being called a film equivalent to a middle aged erotic paperback novel. I can even understand why the majority of the public won’t want to have anything to do with this film. From the director of Coco Before Chanel, French filmmaker Anne Fontaine has adapted a very provocative story into a fascinating film for those looking for something off the beaten path. Not only does the film explore dangerous sexual relationships in a very mature and reasonable way, but also a variety of other issues including parents who choose to be friends with their children (treating them as equals) instead of authority figures or the concept of chasing one's youth. The Australian setting and landscape beautifully illustrates the passion, beautiful tan bodies and constant hunger to be wanted…
Friends since childhood, Roz (Wright) and Lil (Watts) have been accused of being lesbians because of their unbreakable bond. Following the death of her husband, Lil raises her son Ian (Samuels) alongside Harold (Mendelsohn) and Roz’s son Tom (Frecheville), who is the same age. The boys create a bond much like their mothers, drinking and surfing together. Ian’s loneliness leads him to the bed of Roz, and in turn Tom to Lil’s. “I don’t want to stop. I don’t see why we have to,” Lil says to her best friend. Both women fear the danger they are putting their sons in, as well as their own friendships, but cannot tear themselves away from the pleasure and nostalgia they feel being with each other’s son.
The idea of a young man having a relationship with his mother’s friend isn’t entirely new, but Adore takes that concept and really makes it something layered here with the women being as close as sisters. Watts and Wright give pretty brave performances in difficult roles, although it's not their best work. The real star of the film is the shock value itself. I liked the idea of these women constantly looking back on their youth in photos and then turning to these boys they refer to as god like, to find confirmation of their beauty, even though they constantly flaunt themselves on the beach daily. “I can’t remember being this happy, it’s scary,” Lil says after the second encounter.
The excitement and suspense does run thin after the initial discussion of how these two couples will interact together. However, the film does have a few twists and plot devices that continue to reinforce the fact that we are seeing a forbidden storyline that hasn’t been explored before to this degree. Fontaine and cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne do an incredible job at making the shores of Australia one of the most important characters in the film, with that floating dock in the ocean that feels like everyone’s secret escape. Watts and Wright have never looked more beautiful in the film as they seduce the boys on screen and no doubt those off screen as well.
Final Thought – One of the most lustful and forbidden erotic stories on screen in recent memory.
Grade A- By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Adore is a well made film that will stretch most people’s boundaries of propriety. I think it is refreshingly edgy—although rather fanciful in that it is so much easier to see this kind of plot with the four beautiful people as the stars. Robin Wright and Naomi Watts as Roz and Lil are very attractive and appealing in a beachfront setting with the constant music of the waves lapping on the shore. Naturally, they have sons, Tom (James Frecheville) and Ian (Xavier Samuel), who are just as gorgeous.
Despite all the beauty, this is not a feel-good movie all the way through; there is plenty of angst, social discomfort, sadness over loss, and decisions requiring sacrifice. The characters are well drawn (based on a book by Doris Lessing, with screenplay by Christopher Hampton) and the viewer is always wondering how it will all turn out. Just when you think the story is ending, there is another twist of the plot.
My thoughts and feelings about it shifted frequently during the movie, and I could not help wondering what a different experience it would be if the genders were reversed (i.e., two fathers with young women as daughters). Because it is so common, society is now very accepting of the older man/younger woman combination. But much is still made about the few couples who are older woman/younger man. Most would regard the former combination as ultimately more stable than the latter; hence, the apprehensions of the mothers in the film.
Anne Fontaine (Coco before Chanel) wisely directs the movie toward exploring deep relationships and attractions, maintaining a neutral tone throughout, so the emphasis is on the people involved and their complex emotional makeup and connections, rather than on the unconventional aspects of their love.