Director: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn
Watch Adore online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Google Play
“What have we done?”
That’s Roz (Wright) to her best friend Lil (Watts), after sleeping with her son, Ian (Samuel). Toni, meanwhile, has done the same with Lil’s little boy, Tom (Frecheville). “We’ve crossed the line,” comes Lil’s reply. It’s a rare example of understatement in Adore, a film stuffed with overstatement – and one of many examples of unintentional hilarity.
Based on the novel The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing, Anne Fontaine’s inter-familial foursome aims to be an honest dissection of age, love and sex. Instead, its overplayed Oedipal tangles gives you the chance to make an honest dissection of what you had for lunch.
It’s not the cast’s fault. While Hollywood is busy overlooking older actresses, it’s great to see a tale that gives the lead to two excellent, mature performers. Young’uns Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville are suitably preening and brooding as their hunky toy boys. The chemistry between Samuel and Watts, in particular, is spot-on.
The problem is the dreadful script, by Christopher Hampton, which is riper than a banana left out for a week. On the surface of the sun.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier,” Lil says to Roz, as they pretend not to be shagging each other’s offspring. The dialogue is laughable, topped only by the frequent melodramatic showdowns: at first, Adore impresses by being frank about its plot, wasting no time in dancing around the big reveal from its characters. But it soon becomes clear that it doesn’t know how to be subtle: nothing is left unsaid. It’s hard to believe this is the same screenwriter who gave us Atonement.
Ben Mendelsohn’s divorced (and magnificently-moustached) dad, is the only one who comes out in tact, managing to espouse understated fatherly wisdom from afar without sounding trite; it helps that he does not appear in any emotional shouting matches. The rest leaves you giggling like a schoolgirl. Credit should go to Robin and Naomi, simply for managing to keep a straight face throughout. Naomi’s wide-eyed, naive delivery, though, only makes it sound all the more ridiculous. As the action descends into time jumps that require our heroines to age – with no notable increase in wrinkles or grey hair – Adore becomes a disjointed series of intensely over-the-top scenes, often ending in sex. It’s like watching a soap opera sponsored by viagra.
Fontaine shoots it all with an eye for the pretty Australian coastline – the two families live in spotless estates boasting a panoramic ocean view – and the piano music from Christophe Gordon is pleasant on the ears, but as smirks give way to titters, and titters give way to yawns, you end up not caring about who’s bonking whom. The line between good and bad? They crossed it a long time ago.
Adore is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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