PLOT: Two lifelong friends who have shared everything together begin romantic relationships with each other’s sons. Not surprisingly complications arise from this mother-loving arrangement.
Imagine two beautiful, middle-aged women watching each of their twenty or so year old sons frolicking on the beach. One woman proclaims to the other how the two boys look like Greek Gods or something of that nature. If you are intrigued by this then you should definitely give this May-December romantic drama a try. However, for the rest of us you may want to avoid ADORE, a sudsy story that feels more like some bizarre cappuccino commercial as opposed to a feature film. This is basically for middle-aged women who can’t wait until next year’s FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Even still this tame drama doesn’t offer any real sex or nudity aside from shirtless young men.
Roz and Lil (Robin Wright and Naomi Watts) are childhood friends who have shared everything together. When Lil’s husband dies, the two find solace in their friendship and the love they have for their sons, Ian and Tom (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville). After Roz’s husband Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) accepts a job that would take them far from the tropical paradise they call home, she begins to have an affair with Lil’s handsome son Ian. When Tom finds out and reveals their romantic tryst all of the secrets are put out into the open. Soon, the two women are swapping their sons as they would a cup of sugar. Things get truly complicated when Tom meets a sexy singer named Mary (Jessica Tovey) who threatens to disrupt the couples steamy little lives.
The main problem with this cold and lackluster romance is the convoluted script by French director Anne Fontaine and Christopher Hampton (also credited with dialogue). Based on the novel “Grandmothers” written by Doris Lessing there is a real emotional void that fails to create any compassion for the two women. While Watts’ Lil is slightly more sympathetic, they are all too agreeable on what is certainly a risky relationship that could – and in a way does – threaten everyone involved. This is especially true in the final moments of the film which I won’t reveal. Yet ADORE doesn’t back down from the choices it makes and neither do the characters involved – which I suppose is a bold choice.
Credit should be given to Fontaine however as she never treats the entanglements as tawdry or shocking necessarily. If only the dialogue itself wasn’t so utterly ridiculous. The story plays more like a Harlequin Romance as opposed to a serious drama. The romantic escapades are told in a matter-of-fact way yet somehow these two women and their sons are lacking any complications from real world issues. They never seem in need of money or anything else, and even the serious issue of adultery is swept under the rug. For a movie about two mothers in a sexual relationship with the others son, it seems that all the difficulties are only minor inconveniences for the four involved. Of course, maybe that is the point.
It is easy to see why the director went with both Watts and Wright. The two actresses do manage to give good performances even if the script doesn’t do them any favors. As well both Samuel and Frecheville give a little heart to their performances and these four very attractive people make for one hell of a pretty cast. Of course setting this on the coast, Fontaine is able to capture the actor’s beauty with the help of a gorgeous backdrop. This is as beautiful of a film as you could imagine. With the moody piano score by Christopher Gordon, there are moments where you nearly fall for the movie and its disingenuous charm.
It is a real shame as this could have been a far more daring film than it really is. The elements are all there as well as the on-screen talent. This is an empty void that fails to shed any light on what could have been a compelling romance. Given that the director handles the material with a little bit of class it is hard to fault the film too much. Then again, since the characters she presents us make such risky and detrimental choices, it might have been a far more fascinating film had she pushed the envelope and taken more of a risk herself. ADORE is a pretty yet superficial romance that feels more like a Twitter update with #richwhitewomenproblems.