Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Adore (or Whatever it’s Titled Today)

English language Nobel laureates for literature have complicated relationship with cinema.  Arguably, Steinbeck has fared the best, providing the source material for masterworks from John Ford and Elia Kazan.  Ernest Hemingway films have been a radically mixed bag, including some gems and some clunkers.  Faulkner films have generally been an iffy proposition.  However, director Anne Fontaine and screenwriter Christopher Hampton will drastically lower the curve with their smarmy adaptation of Doris Lessing’s The Grandmothers, now known as Adore (trailer here) for its New York opening this Friday.

Lessing’s original title, The Grandmothers, obviously does not sound very sexy.  Hence, Fontaine’s film was known as Two Mothers at Sundance, where my colleagues in the press corps took the bullet to inform the world this was no art movie.  Six months or so later, it was re-titled Adore, right up there at the top of the alphabet, presumably to be VOD friendly.  No matter what it’s called, this film is sure to disappoint.

Lil’s husband never was much, so when he dies, she is able to carry-on raising her son Ian well enough on her own, with the help of her BFF Roz.  Roz also has a son, Tom, and a perfectly serviceable husband, Harold, who just does not seem to be the sort of doofus she wants anymore.  For most of the summer, the lads surf, while their mother booze it up on the shore, drinking up their lean frames.  Eventually, Ian puts the moves on Roz and Tom follows suit with Lil.

Oh gee, how scandalous.  At least, that is how the filmmakers would like us to react.  Frankly, it is not worth getting worked up over.  Never before has cougar-boy toy sex been so boring.  In lieu of substance, we get an interminable surfeit of morning after shots, following the characters walking on the beach, staring off into the horizon.  Yet, by far the gravest sin of Adore (Fontaine’s dubious English language debut) is Hampton’s ridiculous dialogue.  There is no way real people would ever talk like this.  However, it probably looked great on the page, eliciting all sorts of “edgy” compliments from Hampton’s screenwriter colleagues.

Indeed, there is a cynical laziness to Adore that assumes it merely needs to deliver the promised quota of taboo sex for critics and viewers to be intimidated by “provocative” nature.  The truth is there is no there there.  The characters are paper thin and not once do their reactions ring true.  Anyone who can tell Xavier Samuel’s Ian apart from James Frecheville’s Tom should win a cigar from exhibiting theaters.  Naomi Watts and Robin Wright have a few nice moments together, but evidently Fontaine and Hampton believe the world already had enough films about friendships between middle aged women.

Yes, Adore addresses sexual relations, but never with any kind of intelligence or maturity.  In truth, it lacks the depth and insight of an average Pia Zadora movie.  Slow, smug, and shallow, Adore is an absolute waste of the talents of Fontaine (whose The Girl from Monaco is far sexier and more emotionally complicated), Watts, Wright, and the normally reliable Ben Mendelsohn.  Not recommended, especially for those who think it might hold guilty pleasures, Adore opens this Friday (9/6) in New York at the Angelika Film Center.