I got the 2013 movie “Adore” because it was based on a novella (The Grandmothers, published in 2003) by the just-deceased (17 November) Nobel Prize in Literature winner Doris Lessing (1919-2013, the prize was awarded in 2007). If I had just stumbled upon it, despite its Australian location, I would have thought it is a French film, the French (at least on the basis of movies they export) being more blasé about incest (Les enfants terribles, Le Souffle au Coeur, Ma mère, Dreamers) and showing women significantly older than their young studs. The parallel relationships in “Adore” instance the latter, but feel very close to innocence, because the lads who have grown up together as surfing buddies have both known the other’s mother their whole lives. And the mothers (who eventually become grandmothers, as in Lessing’s original title) have been best friends their entire – and longer – lives.
They both live just above a beach that has no other visible houses or visitors. I thought mothers and sons were oddly lacking in tans, considering how much time they spend on the beach or on the water (a diving platform on which they frequently stretch out). Lacking tans, I’d think they’d burn in the semi-tropical sun…
A more serious believability problem is the character and conduct of the boys. Maybe if they were French… but the in-tandem seduction of each other’s mothers (one a widow, the other being pressed to move to Sydney where her husband (Ben Mendelsohn) just took a university job) and their general complaisance to the “second mother” of each is hard for me to credit. It is not difficult to credit that they would find their elders – embodied by Robin Wright (Roz) and Naomi Watts (Lil) – attractive, but such familiar women being sufficient for adolescent males? Lil’s light-hair-colored son Ian (Xavier Samuel) is more deeply in love with Roz than Roz’s dark-haired son Tom (James Frecheville) is with Lil, but Tom is more sexually driven than his friend. He follows his friend’s lead and keeps poking Lil after Roz cuts off access to Ian (which follows the start of Tom’s liaison in Sydney with actress Mary (dark-tressed Jessica Tovey).
There is no frontal nudity, though Frecheville’s derrière is on recurrent display (and Wright’s in one brief one) and there is quite a bit of simulated sexual intercourse in the movie.
The pace seems Europeanly slow with lots of languorous lying around on the diving platform in their swimwear. (The women do not even lower their tops while lying on their stomachs, btw.) There are too many meaningful looks” not to dilute their meaning. The “resolution” seems very French (which is to say not American).
The female leads are formidable actresses; the male ones have chiseled bodies, surfing abilities, and perky little nipples and are not matches in acting chops for their mothers. They seem a woman or women’s fantasy lovers, not credible young males from anywhere. There is something “Persona”-like (or reminiscent of “Mulholland Drive”) in the fusion of the women’s characters and reactions with a strong dose of battling against the inevitability of aging. It is no wonder that those (Roz’s husband and Lil’s bald suitor) think they must be lesbians, the “unthinkable” rutting with boys young enough to be their sons (Wait! Sons of each other) not discovered by any nosy neighbors.
Christophe Beaucarne (Mr. Nobody, Coco Before Chanel) shot the movie in ways that could have been located on the Mediterranean and he African-born Lessing’s novella (which was set in England and revealed that there had been a double wedding from which the Adonises were produced) was adapted by cosmopolitan British playwright (Total Eclipse, Tales of the Hollywood Hills) Christopher Hampton (who has adopted “Chéri”, “The Quiet American, “Dangerous Liaisons”, “Atonement,” “A Dangerous Method,” “Leaving Argentina,” etc.). Some of the dialogue seems like pedestrian subtitles (keeping with my view of the movie being translated from French) with such clinkers as “We’ve crossed the line.” Luxemburg-native Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel” is her only credit I’d hard above) directed the movie.