This Week in Movies You Missed:
Two best friends take a shine to each other's hot sons in an arty drama that doubles as a virtual vacation for middle-aged ladies.
What You Missed
Lil and Roz (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) have always lived virtually next door on an idyllic part of the Australian coast. They've always been BFFs. Their husbands and kids have done little to change the equation — conveniently, their sons are BFFs, too. After Lil is widowed, and Roz's husband leaves her for a job in Sydney, the foursome becomes inseparable.
Like, really inseparable. When Lil's son, Ian (Xavier Samuel), makes a pass at Roz, she's into it. Roz's son, Tom (James Frecheville), is weirded out by the relationship between his friend and his mom for a second or two. But he quickly decides that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and makes his play for Lil.
It all works amazingly well until Tom takes a jaunt to Sydney and realizes that other places and women exist.
Why You Missed It
Director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel
) made Adore
as a serious drama; its screenplay was cowritten by respected playwright Christopher Hampton based on a Doris Lessing novel. But when the film played at Sundance in 2013, people laughed. And kept laughing. (Here's an account from a critic who attended the screening.
The reviews were not good, and the movie flopped at 57 U.S. theaters. It's now on DVD and Netflix and Amazon Instant.
Should You Keep Missing It?
I'm trying out a new 20-point, highly scientific scale for my assessment of indie films:
1-4 points: Does it look pretty?
4/4. Did I already mention that Adore
is a substitute for a tropical vacation? And an ad for Australian tourism? Fontaine's camera makes sweet love to the sun-drenched beaches, lush foliage and glittering ocean. When Roz's husband begs her to relocate to Sydney with him, she admits, "We can't imagine ever leaving this place." Who would? (The question of how they can afford to live there, on the other hand, is never addressed.)
1-4 points: Does anything happen?
is about as eventful as your average Nicholas Sparks movie. Lots of yearning and staring, not much doing.
Many critics call such films melodramas. But a "melodrama," in its original theatrical sense, is a exaggerated drama scored to music featuring larger-than-life battles of good and evil. Something like Les Miz
, or every superhero flick ever made.
By contrast, I call these slow-paced romantic flicks blisso-dramas
. They're slow because the director wants to give the target audience plenty of time to appreciate the sun-soaked landscapes and the leading man's abs before trouble in paradise sets in. Conflict of any kind is the enemy of romantic bliss, so it has to be squelched as soon as it appears (see: the Twilight
series and the trouble the filmmakers went to to add a modicum of stuff happening to the final installment).
Maybe there's a psychological truth to this version of romance that ties in with the quasi-incestuous relationships portrayed in Adore
. Freud would have a field day linking the sons' desire for their moms' best friends (who, it should be noted, helped raise them
) to their refusal to leave home and start their own lives. He might say they're motivated not by Eros but by Thanatos — the famous "death drive," which favors stasis.
1-4 points: Does what happens make sense?
2/4. Sometimes, kinda. If you buy the movie's premise, what follows from it makes perfect sense. But it's not easy to accept that premise as anything but soft-core erotic fantasy, mainly because of an underlying problem:
1-4 points: Do the characters seem like real people? Failing that, do they look pretty?
1/4. That one point is for looking pretty. They sure do. Indeed, the premise would be even harder to accept if Wright and Watts didn't look great for their ages (like movie stars), or if the young men resembled scrawny college freshmen and not beefcake models. A more obvious age difference would have brought the whole almost-incest issue to the fore.
None of these gorgeous people, however, has been endowed with a personality. When Lil and Roz talk about something other than their son-lovers (passing the Bechdel test!), the topic is generally how they are not, really
not in love with each other, not that
way, even though all their friends think so.
Their excessive protests give the movie another interesting subtext: Is screwing your best friend's son a covert way to screw your best friend? It does not, however, help us differentiate the two women. The film gives these two stellar actresses almost nothing to do but lie around in bikinis. The sons are differentiated in exactly one respect: Ian wants nothing but Roz, while Tom has some inclination to explore the wider world. But they aren't fleshed out, either.
1-4 points: Does the movie give us a reason to care about anything happening on screen?
1/4. I'm a character-focused viewer. When I don't care about the people in the story, I generally don't care.
made me care more than Nicholas Sparks movies do, however, because its screenplay has just enough self-awareness to remind me of my favorite book, Wuthering Heights
is far from a static novel, and it's a way more stimulating than Adore
, but it explores the same notion that true love is a blisso-drama striving for deathlike stasis. Heathcliff wants things to be exactly the way they were
when he and Catherine were children; he will accept no change, no evolution, and when things do change, he gets violent. Ian occasionally threatens to do the same in this movie.
In Wuthering Heights
, blisso-drama leads to many lives being fucked up. In Adore
, not so much. But the ending is open to interpretation: Is it happy, or is it ... kind of deeply twisted? I'd say the latter.
As a movie, 9/20. As a virtual vacation, full marks. Watch it while cooking something spicy.
This Week in Theaters
The sequel to 300
, sans Zack Snyder. Mr. Peabody & Sherman
turns midcentury cartoons into post-millennial family fare.
At the Roxy and Savoy, the latest from Japan's Hirokazu Koreeda (After Life, Nobody Knows, I Wish, Air Doll
): Like Father, Like Son
. (Catch it now; it won't stay long.) At the Roxy, the 3D Russian war blockbuster Stalingrad
Find movie times here.
This Week in Your Living Room
12 Years a Slave, Girl Rising, The Grandmaster, The Last Days on Mars
, Spike Lee's Oldboy, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.