ADORE Review

Adore is one of those films that looks a little icky when you see the trailer. I don't use the word "icky" very often and it is probably against my better judgment to do so here, but given that the definition is simply adding two letters to the word its defining to make it sticky with the added value of being unpleasant it seems extremely appropriate as that is the exact type of situation our two protagonists get themselves into in this twisted, disturbing, and surprisingly affecting film. Is it controversial? Sure. Does it push boundaries? I guess so, slightly. Does it make for an entertaining film? Not exactly. What the film, previously titled Two Mothers, does make for is a pretty intense soap opera with top caliber acting and beautiful cinematography. There are plenty of dynamics you could draw on here, but nothing so obvious as the Oedipal complexities of a mother and son relationship. In fact, there is no need for that type of development because in what is essentially the opening scene of the film one of our two mothers boys is attending his fathers funeral. Though this does leave what we assume is a lasting effect it isn't the one the world would so easily assume. Instead, Ian (Xavier Samuel) develops and very intense, very genuine, if not at first sight naive love for his mothers best friend Roz (Robin Wright). Another thing you think upon first seeing the trailers is that you know exactly where this film will be heading even if you're not quite sure where it could possibly end up. What I found surprising and what may have lent to me becoming more intrigued with the film is the fact it doesn't follow the dramatic beats I expected it to. In fact, it goes to some rather unexpected places and explores avenues and dilemmas I had yet to come up with in my own head about what might cause trouble in the scenario these four work up. It is a slightly distressing film in that you wonder how two successful, mature women would ever allow themselves to succumb to such temptation and clearly wrong action, but both Wright and Naomi Watts sell it even if, in the end, we still feel they know better.

Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) play moms in love with each others sons.
Set in Australia, we are introduced to Roz and Lil (Watts) as little girls for no other reason than to establish the two have known each other their entire lives. They grow up, Lil gets married and has a son, Ian, while Roz is in a committed relationship with Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) who also have a son together, Tom (James Frencheville). They are seemingly excluded from the rest of the world as they live next to one another with beach front properties that overlook the ocean made up of as much uncharted water as these women eventually decide to dive into. The boys grow up, Ian without his father, while as they each reach the end of their teenage years Harold, a college professor, is offered a better position at a bigger University in Sydney. This decision, or more opportunity in Harold's point of view, to move on to better things and bigger pay days is all but a step into solidifying what he and Roz have shared for nearly twenty years. Instead, when Harold is away scouting locations for where he might move his family in Sydney Ian is making his long awaited moves on Roz. The film wastes no time in dwelling on the little things as Tom catches his mom in bed with his best friend the first time they decide to cross the line and in turn Tom has no reservations of walking over to Lil and Ian's house to try and attempt revenge. Naturally, things don't go as he plans immediately, but (and this is no spoiler, as its in the trailer and part of the films hook) the inevitable hook-up happens as Tom knows its been a long time since Lil has been on the receiving end of any type of intimate love. As things go they cannot simply exist as two best friends sleeping with each others sons, but that doesn't mean they won't try as they see no reason they should have to give up these feelings of renewal, of fantasy, and of danger that is both intimidating and as sensual as the acts they embrace. Society of course will come to smack them in the face with the realities of what they are doing no matter how much they try to cut themselves off from the world its natural order introduces complications that you will be glad they brought while feeling all the more "icky" for subjecting yourself to.

All of this seems to beg the question, and believe you me I wondered this myself many times throughout, why two handsome young men would be so desperate for what is so convenient and clearly wrong. Is it for those reasons exactly? Is it because they've been so cut off to the point all they know are each others mothers and wonder what a life with the only women they've ever known might be like? Have they thought past this prime point in their lives? When they will grow into middle age while their mothers begin to fade away? All of these and more are thankfully explored and that's what makes the film a rewarding watch rather than simply a melodramatic crackpot of absurd situations. Based on a novella by Doris Lessing titled The Grandmothers director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) is accustomed to films with subversive sexual tones, but while the act of engaging in love making and the taboo nature of who does said love making is front and center for the marketing of the film that actual substance that makes up the movie more or less pushes this to the side with only a few indicative scenes sprinkled throughout. What Fontaine seems more interested in digging up is not the relationships between these mothers and their young lovers, but the relationship between the two of them. Their relationship is fascinatingly troubling as they are closer than anyone else on screen. Once Harold proposes the idea of a job in Sydney Roz grows ever more distant from him and as said earlier, Lil has been widowed for many years and when loneliness lingers it is easy to cross the line the way these two do. Roz and Ian have an intense relationship, a more personal one you might say, but Roz never betrays her friend more than she is willing to come clean about. This is the fascinating area because as you'd think that the two women would grow to hate one another after finding out what each of them have done they instead take it for what it is, approach it as adults and admit they like it even if they know they shouldn't. In all actuality it brings them closer and excludes them further from the society they would rather not participate in. The movie is as much a love story about the two couples as it is the unique one between Lil and Roz; it is a very intimate relationship that allows the story to go places you don't expect.

Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (James Frencheville) in Adore.
While all of that is rather interesting and makes for an engaging, if overly-serious, experience most of the time I couldn't help but thank the film by the end of it for, at the very least providing interesting roles to two actresses over thirty that doesn't place them as a house wife in peril or that plays down their sex appeal. It is a rare opportunity for any actress in Hollywood that reaches their mid-40's to find any interesting roles let alone two leading roles in a film that will push peoples buttons with solid material. The film is indeed that, a very solid production where Fontaine has captured the Australian seaside in lush 35mm Cinemascope, but while sporting the inevitable campiness of it all in a way that tries to dismiss it we aren't able to get away from the controversial theme it demonstrates. I came to the end of the film still not able to get past the ridiculousness of the idea and that two beautiful, older women with good careers and no doubt plenty of options (still feeling sorry for Gary Sweet's character) would want to place such hope and wonderment in their own lives not to mention their sons while having to know in the back of their minds that one day this would have to come to an end. I have to even believe they continued to think that throughout even if the film would have us believe something different. I wondered what the film was trying to say, what the point of it all might have been besides the obvious goal of taking a subject matter that would be considered "icky" and bringing real depth to it. If it is any consolation it no doubt succeeds in that regard, but it still didn't leave a lasting effect on me or make me think differently about the situation because no matter how you look at it there are no good excuses. In the end, it is easy to get wrapped up in the lives and the drama of these people as you're watching the film unfold, but once you step away from it and distance yourself from the reality of what is actually going on it is hard to take it as a serious piece of debate. I would have rather seen a feature length "Mother Lover" film with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg and been able to laugh at all of this, but Adore has plenty going for it and that it grabs you in the moment says something considering what it's talking about.