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.