Adore (2013)

AdoreLil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) are BFFs. In fact, they are so close that Roz’ husband, Harold (Ben Mendelsohn), asks her if they are romantically involved. While they may not have eyes for one another, however, that doesn’t stop them from lusting after their respective sons — twenty-something surfer-boys for whom the feeling is apparently mutual. When Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) makes a pass at Roz after a few bottles of wine, and Tom (James Frecheville), having witnessed their affair, is moved to seek solace with Lil, they embark on parallel relationships, while Harold is working away in Sydney.

Originally titled Two Mothers for its premiere at Sundance, where it garnered overwhelmingly negative reviews, and later changed to Perfect Mothers, Anne Fontaine’s latest — an adaptation of Doris Lessing’s British novella “The Grandmothers” — arrived at the 57th BFI London Film Festival with a new name, but to largely similar effect. All in all, it’s not been the best year for Watts, who started strongly with The Impossible but has since stumbled with Diana, and has now slept with her best friend’s son, too. (Watch out Kidman Jnr.)

However, while Fantaine might struggle to impress on anything other than a visual level — though it is had to imagine how such a pristine part of Australian coastline could look anything other than preternaturally picturesque — Watts is still doing solid work. In fact, the entire cast impress throughout, with Wright, Samuel and Frencheville turning in perfectly respectable performances, often in spite of dreamily nonsense dialogue. At times you can just about read Christopher Hampton’s script on Wright’s face — usually when regretting her lot in life.

The first hour asks for the foursome to do little more than surf and sunbathe, and, thanks to their efforts, throughout this section their company is pleasant if a little plodding. Even once the nature of their relationships shifts, there is little threat to the status quo and drama takes a backseat to the sort of fawning that suggests Lil and Roz might well have reached their Twilight years. Considering the semi-incestuous nature of their couplings, it’s a little disappointing that the film only ever has identifiable edge when the ever-creepy Ben Mendelsohn is onscreen.

What prevents Adore from being easily dismissed as “Mills & Boon: Down Under” is the final act. It is only after the umpteenth attempt to put an end to their perceived wrong-doing (which leaves both sons on the market; one happily, the other substantially less so) that there is any hint that their liaisons might have any impact on their future happiness. But at this point all four participants become suddenly three-dimensional, and the glittery idyll gives way to something far more interesting. The final shot in particular is unexpectedly haunting, as it becomes clear that — as Lil suggested earlier in the movie — they really may have crossed a line.

Adore is by no means a great movie, but it is considerably more provocative than many critics have given it credit for. Watts and Wright are spell-binding as friends that aspire to be family, while Samuel — following on from The Loved Ones and Bait 3D — continues to pick interesting projects. If only it hadn’t taken until an overdue surfing accident for Fantaine to realise that there was more than just glistening sunlight beneath the too tranquil surface.

2-stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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