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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Adore (2013)

Anne Fontaine’s Adore is a piece of tripe. Not only is it the worst film I’ve seen from this year, it is hands down the worst film I’ve seen all year. The film opens with two girls running in the woods, as if they were the last two inhabitants of planet Utopia. Underscoring this scene sequence is a pleasant, playful music. The two girls find their way into a deserted beach and soak it up in the sea. They stare into each other’s eyes and smile. The scene transitions smoothly to the two of them about fifteen years later. They’re still staring at each other. This transition seems to say that their bond remains just as strong and isn’t bound by time. The women have their own sons now. Lil’s (Naomi Watts) husband dies in a car crash while Roz’s (Robin Wright) husband jokes about it with Lil’s fellow employee at the funeral.

As we’re taken through their lives, we find out that Roz’s husband Harold, who suspects a lesbian relationship shared between the two women, feels excluded from his own family, which, by now, includes Lil and her son. This reasonable fear sends the two women roaring with laughter while allowing them to bond with each other over deriding the male species. “Bloody men,” they conclude. Film-maker Fontaine’s characters share the same juvenile worldview as she demonstrates in Adore.

I like how Fontaine manages to transition from one time period to another. These cuts are smooth, effective and call for your attention. However, the desperation with which she develops those characters does little justice to these time increments in the film. The characters feel just as new and foreign with each other as they appear to us. Either way, Anne Fontaine’s attempt to cover this up is marked by the lead actresses smothering each other with love like little lion cubs. This whole act feels like a long due rendezvous following years of the two being separated. The two women have a recurrent urge to reminisce over their childhood days. This feels inconsistent with the fact that they’ve practically lived with each other all their life. Fontaine is too keen on making us feel the extent of their bond. But her efforts makes Adore all the more strange and incongruous than it is.

The director continues to reinforce their happy-family exterior by getting them to casually discuss their boobs, play cards, and hang out on the porch drinking beer. This, however, is no vacation for these people. This is their daily grind. They conduct themselves more like cool-kids-at-the-school rather than a family. I suppose this is Fontaine’s utopian idea of a family. 

When Roz’s husband Harold gets back from a hard day’s work, he sees the four of them excitedly indulging in a game of cards. His son, Tom, waves to him with a faint smile. Harold and Tom seem to share an acquaintances-at-the-office relationship. Yet when Harold substitutes his family with another in another town (something he does with stoic effortlessness), Tom say things like “It’s nice to see Dad’s new family. He seems settled.” He even goes as far as to remind his father that “Everything works out for the best.” How does Fontaine manage to sweep Adore’s mightiest matters under the carpet?

Tom gets drunk one night. His buddy, Ian, asks him with utmost concern, “You alright, mate?” He doesn’t receive a very convincing response. So, he puts Tom to bed before going back up to have sex with Tom’s mother. Later that night, Tom finds his way back up. He catches his mother coming out of Ian’s bedroom. The next night, Tom is having sex with Evan’s mother, Lil. Whether he does it to get even with his ‘mate’ or whether he is simply using this as an opportunity to satisfy his own sexual urges is unknown. Either way, Fontaine sincerely believes that both boys are deeply in love with the other’s mother. Where Harold figures in all of this hardly seems to matter. Not even to Fontaine. She just wants these four ‘cool’ people to be a nice, happy family that ends in itself.

Lil and Roz talk it out and firmly decide to refrain from fucking each other’s sons, but it isn’t long before they find themselves in the other’s bedroom. Even an absurd plot like this could’ve (at least hypothetically) been a complex study of its characters and their relationships. But, not here. Fontaine seems to simply feel the material at hand and refuses to give it any real thought.

Few shots and pieces of music are deftly placed to evoke an emotional response, and they do deceive us momentarily, tricking us into buying into the emotional weight of this bullshit. But the film is so consistently ridden with flaws that you do snap back to the reality of it all- This whole thing is a loud, unfunny joke.

There’s a complete lack of characterization here. These are just four sensual beings who like swimming, dancing, having sex, laughing, drinking and...yeah, that’s about it. They have no real passion or depth, seem completely cut off from the outside world and are simply unable to feel strongly enough about anything. That Robin Wright Penn thinks she can tell us otherwise of her character by internalizing her character’s pain and letting it simmer only manages to infuse the film with its share of comedy. But nothing tops Naomi Watts taking her daft character seriously, going as far as attempting to convince us of this poorly conceived soap. 

I wondered all along if the two boys even shared a one-to-one relationship with each other, just as their mothers did. And then Fontaine springs me with a scene that decided to answer my question with little conviction. Ian bites Tom under water after a fight. A minute later, the film cuts to Ian swabbing Tom’s wounds right in the face of the camera. What’s the point of such a loud shot/cut? Oh, wait, they’ll stick together through thick and thin, right? What’s worse is that Fontaine chooses to follow this up with an embarrassingly dramatic sequence. The four of them are sitting at a table wondering what happened to the love they once shared. They each pick up a quadrant of an apple in succession while the camera dramatically closes in on the action. Fontaine repeatedly exaggerating her characters’ ‘goodness’ and emphasizing on the default-mode bond that they share only made me more sceptical of this premise than I already am.

It appears that Fontaine holds a flimsy view of familial relationships. Lil’s son meets with a terrible accident, nearly losing his legs. But she seems to be able to joke about it casually- “Doctors say you’ll live.” And then she decides to set things right between him and Roz. Somehow, she finds more gravity in their broken relationship than in the possibility of her son being a cripple for life. This is further vouched by how Fontaine perceives what Roz and Harold could possibly share. Their strained relationship is remodelled into a platonic friendship by a quick dance at their son’s birthday party.

I gather from Adore that Fontaine’s the sort of person who believes (out of convenience) that time’s the best healer and that problems wind up fixing themselves. That people aren’t really accountable for their actions. And everything that’s done for self-gratification and the individual’s happiness is probably alright. But despite her stance, she somehow seems to feel for Lil, who feels like a dispensable entity, when Tom gets his “extra special birthday present” from his new college girlfriend. Fontaine brings out Lil’s sense of isolation and exclusion with quite an empathy and understanding. But why she believes Lil’s sense of exclusion is one worthy of empathy but that of Harold’s is one to be laughed off is hard to overlook. It once again points to how casually she sees familial relationships. The boys eventually leave their wives and daughters to resume their long-stalled affairs with each others’ mothers. This is Anne Fontaine’s idea of a perfectly conclusive, happy, utopian ending.

Here’s a ludicrous piece of dialogue from Adore that deserves special mention.

Lil: “You’re the only one who hasn’t behaved badly.”
Roz: “Then it probably is all my fault.”

It’s even more cringe-worthy in the context of the film.

Rating- 2/10


  1. Sounds awful!
    The lead actresses tempted me to watch this. May even probably watch some day (not on priority) and then come back here.

    1. Absolutely. I would recommend it though. It's nice to feel contempt every once in a while. Haha.


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