2 stars
“They're like young gods,” says Roz, tellingly.

Based on the late Doris Lessing's novel and scripted by Christopher Hampton (Atonement), Adoration is a searing tale of Oedipal love dropped into the mercurial idyll of Seal Rocks, NSW. Roz (Robin Wright - The Conspirator) and Lil (Naomi Watts – Diana) are friends from childhood whose own sons Ian and Tom (Xavier Samuel – Drift and James Frecheville – Animal Kingdom) are equally close. For the most part, they live as one happy family, one that gets a whole lot closer when Ian makes an unexpected move on his best friend's mother; affection she embraces wholeheartedly. Things really heat up when Tom, perhaps feeling betrayed by both Ian and Roz, decides revenge is a dish best served in bed, marches next door and straight up to Lil. Not considering no as a possible answer, she too capitulates to his ernest attention. As the hours merge into days then months, these unlikely couplings re-enforce their belief that they do indeed lead a charmed life.

With any good morality tale, there are lessons to be learned both by the characters and the audience. However in the distressingly and surprisingly pulpy hands of Hampton and director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel), most of the emotional grit has been discarded as the film quickly dissolves into unpalatable soap in a summer of love. The cast are uniformly fine but given a dud hand with even dudder dialogue, fight all the way to the finale (perhaps the only interesting moment in the film). The two women regress to their tween selves, giggling about their catch and the great fortune that sees no need to throw them back. With whispered lines like “Now I feel really sinful,” they spend much of their time congratulating one another on their good luck.

Conviction is Adoration's kryptonite. It's one thing for your best mate to become involved with a woman twice his age. It might change the landscape. But it's quite another when that woman is your Mum. Compound that complication by a factor of two and there's one, large, elephant shaped boulder of emotion that's not being addressed by Adoration. And the film is nothing without it. Of course, young women do catch the boys' attention, jealousies ignite and circumstances do change. But love as powerful as that which binds this foursome is a great power indeed; another theme Fontaine dances around, preferring to let her camera dwell on the handsome cast and gorgeous locations. It is a pretty film. But it's also an unconvincing one that quickly becomes pointless and silly. “We're going to be model pillars of society,” says Roz, trying to call it a day. Good grief.

The lesson? Adoration doesn't seem to have one. Choose wisely if you're going to shag gods, perhaps. But for a story set up as a morality tale, there's precious little of either on show and that's a great pity. There's such a wealth of possibility in the setup alone: the provocation, the secrecy, the broken taboos. Consider a mirror opposite in which older men take on young girlfriends. Or boyfriends. Everything about their situation is deliciously tantalising, and everything that Adoration is not.


Previewed at Sony Theatrette, Sydney, on October 31, 2013



Naomi Watts
Robin Wright
Xavier Samuel
James Frecheville

Anne Fontaine

Christopher Hampton

Australia / France


110 minutes

November 21
Adore (2013) on IMDb
Stacks Image 56