If Only 'Adore' Were as Wonderful as Its Two Leading Ladies

Anne Fontaine seems merely satisfied with having her movie linger between scandal and hedonism.


Director: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright
Distributor: Paramount
Rated: R
Year: 2013
Release date: 2013-12-10

“They’re like young gods” says Roz (Robin Wright) to her best friend Lil (Naomi Watts) as they admire two young men coming out of the ocean, their perfectly sculpted bodies glistening under the bright sun of a New South Wales beach. The lustful comment and the giggly reaction might have been taken as a wonderful example of mature women’s self awareness as sexual beings, if it wasn’t for the fact that the two young men in question are their own sons.

We learn that Lil and Roz have been best friends since childhood, having shared moments together as wives, mothers and in the case of Lil, becoming a widow. Through an effective prologue we see their entire lives pass by in the same idyllic locale, which one would be tempted to call a paradise if it weren’t for the fact that its isolation seems to lead these women to believe that what happens here is acceptable because they think of this place as an exclusive world upon itself.

One night, when Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) stays at Roz’s house, he ends up kissing her. She hesitatingly accepts and then decides she will spend the night with him. Upon discovering this, Roz’s son Tom (James Frecheville) decides that the only course of action is to go to his best friend’s house and sleep with his mother. Soon the two women must come to terms with the hell they’ve unleashed by deciding to pursue relationships with each other’s offspring.

Directed by Anne Fontaine and based on a novella by Doris Lessing, Adore is a perplexing work that often promises more than it can deliver. Because it’s centered on a taboo subject, it sometimes feels as if it’s about to take soap opera turns which never really come to happen and every element in the film is delivered with such a matter of factness that we can’t help but want to be seduced by it, but there is something that still doesn’t quite work.

At the core of the film we truly have two tremendously good performances by Watts and Wright, who year after year seem to become two of the greatest, and most underused, living actresses. Watts brings her usual sense of luminosity and charisma to Lil, as we come to understand that she has always looked up to Roz as a figure to keep her centered (unsurprisingly we never really learn much about their own families). One of the film’s oddest and most pleasant subplots has a bachelor named Saul (Gary Sweet) reveal his love to Lil. At that moment she chooses to remain silent and almost literally hide under Roz’s skirt. She blushes as her friend takes on the role of the adult in the situation and gently asks Saul to leave her alone.

If it wasn’t for the fact that in a different scene we see Lil practically melt in a puddle of jealousy as she sees her paramour dance with a younger woman, we would think that Lil is unable to feel. Very few actresses are able to become whole sexual beings onscreen in the way Watts does and she helps us understand how is it that Lil became so overtaken by the thrill of lovemaking with a man half her age.

Wright too, turns Roz into a woman in full control of her sexuality. We see her refuse her husband’s (the always wonderful Ben Mendelsohn) wish to have her move to Sydney with their son and we understand that she is a being who can see her life without any companionship, except that of her son and her best friend.

It’s no surprise that on many occasions people assume Lil and Roz are lesbian lovers, what’s surprising is to realize that they love each other so much that once they actually tried it. This is where Adore truly excels; despite the unconventional life choices made by its characters, the film is a very powerful story about women finding the strength to send all the world to hell and live the lives they choose to live. The problem is that nothing else in the film lives up to this premise.

Fontaine seems merely satisfied with having her movie linger between scandal and hedonism (Roz wonders if the truth is something people should be proud of), often framing her scenes like Ingmar Bergman movies, but without any substance. Sometimes the film’s matter of factness can be taken for indifference, which makes us wonder why we should care enough to invest time with these characters. It’s a shame that the director didn’t try to create a movie as wonderful as its two lead actresses.

Adore is presented in a stunning high definition transfer which highlights the beauty of the setting while allowing the leading ladies to show off her imperfections like badges of thesp honor. The only extra in the Blu-ray edition is a theatrical trailer.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.