Never rising about the trite and tawdry nature of a Harlequin novel, the “erotic” drama Adore feels more sleazy and silly than emotionally charged. The word “erotic” appears in quotations because there’s really nothing seductive about the film’s core premise of two lonely women swapping sons for sexual pleasure, and yet everyone involved wants to make the film relateable to a wider audience. It’s a stunning miscalculation and an uneasy, unpleasant film to watch at the best of times. It’s extremely soft core mommy porn for women who would breast feed a child until they were 12.
Somewhere on the Australian coast, Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) have been best friends and neighbours for almost their entire lives. Roz never quite got over the death of her husband when her son Ian (Xavier Samuel) was a young boy and never thought about dating ever again. Lil doesn’t want to follow her university professor husband (Ben Mendelsohn) to his new gig in Sydney and leave her idyllic costal home behind. When a night of drinking a bit too much leads to Roz falling into bed with Ian, her son Tom (James Frencheville) feels emboldened to do the same with Lil. It’s a relationship that no one really seems to have any problem with at first, but one that could never last.
Based on a Doris Lessing novel, Adore simply wants to get to the transgressive bits without ever answering big questions that leave gaping emotional holes. Under the direction of Anne Fontaine (Coco avant Chanel) ennui and melodrama abound, but the question as to why these two young men bothered to stick around and hang out with their mother’s all the time never gets asked. Conflicts are resolved almost always in three scenes before being forgotten about and shrugged off, which is a massive problem when the film manages to get around it its atrocious conclusion (that practically got laughed off the screen during the press screening).
None of the cast can do anything more than stare into space, look pensive, and eventually explode into hysterics when the script asks for it. Why so many talented people would agree to be in something this choppy and muddled doesn’t make much sense. Wright seems too reserved and Watts (who also produced) seems to have cranked the overacting to 11. The boys are fine, but they’re simply pieces of soulful meat to underline dialogue as ridiculous as “I feel really sinful” and “They’re like young Gods!” Neither of those lines are meant to be funny, but they really come across the wrong ways. They’re also on hand to highlight the subtext that Roz and Lil might actually just be lesbians in love with each other, but since no one here wants to take things in that interesting of a direction. It should also go without saying that in this situation, everyone, except maybe Roz, is a massive jerk unworthy of love from anyone.
Even at 100 minutes the story seems to drag on forever. Instead of being dramatic, it’s arbitrary and instead of characters there are shoddily outlined stereotypes. The one thing Adore does well is that it films beaches quite beautifully, which is appropriate since that’s where this kind of material should be read in the first place. Even by that standard the material is like a downpour coming out of nowhere on a gorgeous day.