Reviews

'Adore' Looks Like Porn Produced by Architectural Digest

Matthew Wollin

Adore doses out a disturbing premise with a sugary gloss that makes it go down almost too easily and makes you wonder whose fantasy you might be watching.


Adore

Cast: Robin Wright, Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn, Xavier Samuel, James Frecheville
Rated: R
Studio: Exclusive Releasing
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-09-06 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

Adore looks like porn produced by Architectural Digest. Set in a picturesque Australian beach town, Anne Fontaine's film offers such bright sun and visual clarity (courtesy of cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne) that its focus on secrets and betrayals seems almost an afterthought. We might be watching a travel brochure or a makeup ad, the scenery exquisite and vaguely Edenic.

This seductive, absurd fantasy must collapse, of course, but before it does, it's nearly saved by the two gorgeous, glorious actresses at its center. In Adore, opening in select theaters and available on VOD 6 September, Robin Wright and Naomi Watts are, for a time, provocative in their apparent placidity, together a portrait of easy female intimacy and power. They’re like sisters, twins, maybe even the same person, interchangeably confident and knowing. It's a perfection of sameness that lingers even after the differences in their personalities emerge and cause their oddly tender fall from grace.

That fall is generated by startlingly paired decisions, when these two mothers sleep with each other’s sons. It’s a premise that falls outside what's acceptable, drawn from the movie's source, Doris Lessing's novella “The Grandmothers”. The movie provides the premise with a sugary gloss that makes it go down almost too easily and makes you wonder whose fantasy you might be watching, the women’s or the men’s, or maybe both and neither. Though the audacious plot eventually descends into the mundane, this turn is especially disappointing because for a moment, the movie seems poised to abandon such pop-psychological baggage for notions more possibly sublime.

Roz (Wright) and Lil (Watts) have grown up side by side by the beach, achieving such a close bond that that Roz’s husband Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) openly suspects them of being lesbians. Each has a model son; watching the boys surf on the beach, Roz asks, “Did we do that?” and Lil replies, “They’re like young gods.” If the point of their pride is obvious, it's also a little disconcerting for viewers who might want to remember that fathers had roles in these creations.

Lil’s husband is actually recently dead, and when Harold jets off to Sydney for a couple of weeks, it takes about five minutes of screen time for the first transgression to occur, when Lil's son Ian (Xavier Samuel) kisses Roz, and even less time for the second, namely, the decision by Roz's son Tom (James Frecheville) to engage Lil, as a sort of revenge that's quickly abandoned for other pleasures. While the four lovers exist briefly as a blissful, paradisiacal unit almost completely devoid of any real eroticism, the film provides plenty of prettiness, blond and beachy.

The sons are pretty in their own ways, embodying the women's mutually appreciated completions and validations. Even in the film’s latter half, which takes place two years into the mother-son relationships and concerns itself primarily with their disintegration, can be seen as a continuation of the fantasy, by now transformed into a reproach to the women, as each refuses to recognize the other as the true object of her desire.

When their sons begin to stray, first one and then the other, they are such perfect male objects that it hardly seems like their fault: the mothers have done their work too well. It's no surprise that the sons are attracted to women who match them in paradigmatic beauty. Mary (Jessica Tovey) is a theater performer who sings Gershwin, Hannah (Sophie Lowe) a bridesmaid in a white dress.

You know these relationships won’t last, and so this portion of the narrative is comprised of even less tension than the rest. Ian and Tom have grown up by the womblike sea -- Tom is more or less reborn from the ocean after he discovers his mother’s initial transgression, waking up shirtless in the surf and the dawn -- and so they must return there. The women follow their own trajectories, mythic and not: when Roz sits with Lil in the darkness and admits that this all might be her fault, the movie doesn't so much set up a reckoning as it poses a question.

When Adore does deliver its reckoning, it's less compelling than what comes before, the scenes in which Roz and Lil discuss what they have done, admitting the extent of their satisfaction and blurring the lines between decorum and desire with a mix of security and lightness that remains the most astonishing aspect of the film. In another setting, or according to another sensibility, the women's sense of freedom might become an appalling burden. But for a few moments in Adore, their rejection of expectations allows them to share a reverie that is unbelievably whole.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image