Hey, you share everything with your BFF, right? And by everything, I mean everything.
Because the new film Adore just may challenge how deep your personal best friendship goes. Turns out, you may be slacking in the selfless generosity department. Like, if you're not swapping the flesh of your flesh for the flesh of theirs.
Adore is based on a short story by Doris Lessing. It's been adapted by screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) and director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel). The movie stars Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as two girls who grew up together on the Australian coast and eventually got homes across the street where they could raise their sons side by side. Watts' Lil and Wright's Roz do everything together, to the point that even Roz's husband (Ben Mendelsohn, Killing Them Softly) makes cracks about them being lovers. That's not true, however; that's a role they end up surrendering to someone else. Someone equally as close.
Just like their mothers, the ladies' 18-year-old sons do everything together. That mostly includes surfing and drinking, but those things are important to a growing boy. And so, when Roz's son Tom (James Frecheville, Animal Kingdom) realizes that Lil's boy Ian (Xavier Samuel, The Loved Ones) is banging his mom, Tom ends up seducing Lil as revenge. When the women confess their transgressions to one another, their first impulse is to stop carrying on with each other's teenaged children. Yet, the boys are hunks and the widowed Lil is lonely and Roz is about to split with her hubby, and before you know it, two years have passed frolicking on the beach as a quartet before retiring to the bedroom as duos and, oops, this is a thing now.
It all sounds fairly sordid, I know, but once you get past Adore's oogy premise, there is some good drama to be mined from the situation. (And before anyone complains about two older women having sex with two muscle-bound Adonises like it's some strange wish-fulfillment fetish, go and rent any Michael Douglas movie since 1990 and see who gets cast as his love interest. That includes the Liberace movie.) Fontaine does not treat Lessing's text as fodder for a Skinemax style "European" bedroom romp. The sex is incidental, and mostly occurs just out of sight; Adore is more about the complex emotions of four mostly adults caught up in an uncommon scenario.
Which is both good and bad. Sometimes, Adore can really drag, and I started to wish Fontaine would trade some of the deep conversation and meaningful looks for a bit more slap and tickle. It's not helped that the young men were cast more for their abs and flowing locks than they were their acting abilities. Neither of them have the skills to swap dialogue with either of their leading ladies, both of whom are predictably excellent. Lil and Roz are meaty parts, according the actresses plenty of opportunities to explore the full spectrum of emotion. Desire, concern, sadness, insecurity--take your pick. Even joy and ecstasy. It's like these ladies are real people or something! They also look really good in their swimsuits, so hey, you can be sexy and smart in a movie after all.
All kidding aside, though, perhaps the best part of their joint performance is how Wright and Watts blend their two characters together. Their portrayal of the bond between longtime friends borders on the mystical, the two practically become one. (And only kinda sorta in a Mulholland Drive sense.)
It's all the more unfortunate then that Adore has such a measured descent. The final third of the movie is meant to be the fallout from the unique domestic arrangement, but the story drags on too long and relies too heavily on soap opera twists. I suppose Fontaine's languorous pace befits the sun-kissed locale (photographed beautifully by Christophe Beaucarne, who also shot Paris and Chicken with Plums), but a little more energy and a tighter pace couldn't have hurt. Or, for that matter, some greater insight into what made the unconventional attraction worthy of exploring. Adore is like a high-handed take on trashy romance that only proves that you have to get those hands a little dirty if you want your movie to remain interesting.