There’s something unsettling about Anne Fontaine’s Adore, and, surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the film’s two middle-aged women who fall in love with each other’s teenage sons. The cougars in question are Lil and Roz, best friends since childhood played with notable earnestness by Naomi Watts and Robin Wright. They are inseparable, save for an inexplicable amount of time spent hanging out with their barely legal sons—scantily clad beach forays, drinks after dinner, exchanged sexual histories: Nothing is off limits. After copious innuendo, Lil’s hunky son, Ian (Xavier Samuel), finally seduces Roz, prompting a seemingly vengeful tryst between her equally hunky son, Tom (James Frecheville), and Lil. However, there’s more to this taboo foursome than unquenched prurience; the couples fall in love. An idyllic Australian seaside provides the backdrop for this creepy, quasi-pedophiliac entanglement, which is just one of the many conspicuous ways the film shows its hand: The disparity between the inherently trashy appeal of the story and the self-serious way it’s presented cripples much of the potential for enjoyment. The setup screams pulp, but the film doles out stately drama. Fontaine tenderly directs this Doris Lessing adaptation, striving for depth with material most would crassly play for comedy. Everything is meticulous, especially the nuanced performances by Watts and Wright, but there’s no way to compensate for the final product. When Watts’s Lil tearfully proclaims “I’m in love with him,” it’s hard to stifle the giggles.
Anne FontaineNaomi Watts, Robin Wright, Ben Mendelsohn, Xavier Samuel, Sophie LoweDoris LessingExclusive Media