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You know how young, handsome guys are always trying to bash each other’s faces in because they’re screwing the other guy’s mother? No? Well, such a soap-opera-ready love quadrangle is possible—-and treated quite earnestly—-in Adore, directed and co-adapted by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel). Perhaps you’re thinking that “adapted” is an awfully formal word to use in this case. But the film is actually based on a novel—-and not a dramatic version of the Saturday Night Live digital short “Motherlover.”
Naomi Watts and Robin Wright (no, it’s not some soft-core B-movie either) play lifelong friends Lil and Roz, who have sons who are also friends, Lil’s Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Roz’s Tom (James Frecheville). They live in a resortlike seaside Australian town, where all four regularly take dips in the ocean, sun themselves, and gather, as if on double dates, for wine-soaked meals and impromptu dancing. So even before the bedding begins, the situation is already weird.
It starts with Ian kissing Roz, seemingly out of nowhere. Tom catches Ian slipping out of mum’s room and reports to Lil, who, for a second, is realistically horrified. But then she thinks, “Well, if Roz jumped off the cliff…” and is soon boning Tom. And this goes on for two years. Though maybe this is normal for mothers who lie on the beach admiring their boys, with Roz remarking, “They’re like young gods!” Um, eww.
Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to feel the characters’ initial elation or sympathize with them when problems inevitably creep in (besides the No. 1 problem, that is). When Lil and Tom’s relationship looks like it might end, you can’t believe that Watts is taking the material seriously when her Lil sobs, “I don’t know if I can bear it!” Wright’s Roz is equally wrenched, though you may focus more on the actress’s accent, which wavers mostly between British and American. If there’s any upside to the film, it’s that Fontaine incorporates more melancholy staring into the distance than getting it on.
And while Adore’s scenario seems merely ridiculous, consider how a film that reversed the genders would be received. Dads fucking each other’s young daughters? That would be considered appalling. But in the age of cougars (argh, that term!), this plot is put forth as seductive and A-OK. There’s likely to be little backlash, however: Adore is destined to open in a handful of theaters, disappear after a week, and resurface years later as a Trivial Pursuit question, as well as an embarrassing asterisk on the performers’ resumes.