Adore

September 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel
Directed by: Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel”)
Written by: Christopher Hampton (“A Dangerous Method”)

In what plays out like an awkward and erotic coming-of-age film where none of the central characters are written as more than vessels brimming with hormones, actresses Naomi Watts and Robin Wright star as two mothers who begin illicit affairs with each other’s sons in director Anne Fontaine’s self-absorbed drama “Adore.” It’s an emotionally complex albeit not very believable melodrama that teeters between hokey romance and incestuous nonsense, much like the miserable 2007 Julianne Moore vehicle “Savage Grace.”

Based on Doris Lessing’s novel of the same name, “Adore” introduces us to the foursome of the film: Lil (Watts) and her lifelong best friend Roz (Wright) and Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Roz’s son Harold (Ben Mendelsohn). For the first 45 minutes or so, Fontaine keeps us in the dark with the relationships of the characters. Not knowing who is who quickly spins the familial dynamic in a bizarre way, especially with the flirtatious tone that hovers over every scene.

When we finally become aware of which son belongs to which mother (or the fact that there are even two sons and two mothers), it’s already time to get the couples into bed without building on any kind of stable connection between parties. It might just be sex at first when Roz and Ian start fooling around, but Ian predictably ends up falling in love with her. For Harold, it almost seems like he only wants to see how far he can get with Lil when he finds out his mother and his best friend have been playing between the sheets.

All the bed hopping makes for a whole bunch of drivel as the couples spend their time running around on the Australian beach in hopes of finding something tangible in their relationship. They also manage to devote time staring deep into the ocean and contemplating the lack of morality of their sexual escapades.

Fontaine and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (“A Dangerous Method”) leave a lot of unanswered questions for audiences to decipher, but not many of them are interesting enough to want to discover with much assurance. For example, are the two people who desire each other in this scenario really Lil and Roz? Are they living vicariously through their sons to get to one another physically? Or maybe it’s the sons who want more out of their friendship. They sure do spend a lot of time  with each other shirtless in the water.

In all seriousness, “Adore” presents some contentious ideas that will probably make mainstream moviegoers wriggle in their seats uncomfortably, but art-house film devotees might not find much to keep them focused either. Without a grasp on any of the characters’ real intentions or thoughts, “Adore” is about as shallow as they come.

Chloe

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Atom Egoyan (“Adoration”)
Written by: Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel”)

It’s evident from the start how much director Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter,” “Exotica”) wants to keep the title character in “Chloe” as enigmatic as possible. It’s surprising, however, when he doesn’t pull back the curtain in the slightest to give us a glimpse of a real character. By the end, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) – no matter how intriguing she is at first – never develops into more than a mere set piece in a cumbersome story.

Lacking drama, passion, and genuine seductive moments, “Chole” feels like a bargain basement romance novel with little spirit and intention. The story follows New York gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) who suspects her college-professor husband David (Liam Neeson) is cheating on her with one of his students.

While there is some evidence of his infidelity, Catherine wants to be certain. She decides to do what any other woman would (yeah right) and hires Chloe (Seyfried), a high-class prostitute, to assist her with a social experiment on her husband. Catherine asks Chloe to present herself to David like any two strangers would meet on any given day, flirt a bit, and see if he takes the bait. As these rendezvous become more consistent, Catherine wants detailed reports of their meetings. Chloe obliges and reveals every steamy scenario that plays out between her and David.

But as the bizarre love triangle continues, director Egoyan wrestles with the exact tone he wants for the second half of the film. When Chloe begins to show interest in Catherine and then in Catherine and David’s disrespectful teenage son Michael (Max Thieriot), the air of sexual tension is slowly let out of the narrative as Chloe extends her screen time by adding needless mischief to the already far-fetched premise. Once “Chloe” hits the “Fatal Attraction” plateau it’s a lost cause.

“Chloe” would have worked much better as an intelligent character study, but instead Egoyan shifts back and forth from tasteful to tawdry without much explanation. While Moore, Seyfried, and Neeson do as much as they can with their characters, the script expands in too many directions for Egoyan to make sense of anything with a deeper meaning than just the sex itself.

Coco Before Chanel

November 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Audrey Tautou, Alessandro Nivola, Benoit Poelvoorde
Directed by: Anne Fontaine (“The Girl from Monaco”)
Written by: Anne Fontaine (“The Girl from Monaco”) and Camille Fontaine (“Man of the Crowds”)

Whether you’re a stylish fashionista or someone who doesn’t know the difference between box pleats and inverted pleats (scoff), the biopic “Coco Before Chanel,” based on the life of fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel before she became an iconic brand name, is a solid piece of work. It’s no haute couture dress, but it’s not a hand-me-down either.

Based on the book by former editor of French Vogue Edmode Charles-Roux, “Coco Before Chanel” begins in 1893 when young Gabrielle’s father boards her and her sister Adrienne at an orphanage. The two sisters grow up side by side and as they get older take on different ways of making money including sewing petticoats and singing at a local cabaret (she earns her nickname after performing a song about a dog named Coco).

Although Coco and Adrienne have short-term plans for their singing careers, Adrienne moves away with a baron she meets and leaves her sister to fend for herself. Without much thought, Coco packs her bags and moves to Paris to visit Etienne Balsan (Benoit Poelvoorde), a wealthy friend who takes her into his mansion and ignores the fact that she overstays her welcome after a few weeks.

While she has grown to love the finer things in life, it is in Etienne’s presence where Coco finds her true passion. She starts off by making hats before she popularizes trousers and other men’s wear for women. The last thing an extremely independent woman like Coco would wear is something of high society like a corset. She is a free spirit and not someone who would let anything or anyone hold her down. At first she is given strange glances from other women who don’t understand why she refuses to wear hats adorned with feathers or shoes with heels, but soon enough her style catches on.

As the straight-forward biopic continues, so does the elegance and grace of Tautou, who is her generation’s Audrey Hepburn. While Poelvoorde and actor Alessandro Nivola (he plays Coco’s true love) give quality performances, it’s Tautou who steals most of the show dressed in drab grays and blacks.

There just something so delicate about Tautou that stands out in a film like “Chanel.” It might not have all the charming aspects of other Tautou films like “Amelie” or “Priceless,” but “Chanel,” a story about a woman who strays from the stuffiness of society to make her own path to become a great designer, is a sophisticated and empowering rags-to-riches tale.