Adore | C-
Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) are lifelong best friends who seem to idle away most of their days bikini-clad, wandering back and forth between their adjacent Australian beach houses, sipping white wine and lounging in the sand while admiring the glorious sea, the sun and each other. Lithe, statuesque blondes, they are near mirror images whose mutual admiration borders on obsession and extends to their pair of perfectly tanned and strapping teenage sons, who Roz lovingly remarks “look like young gods” floating majestically atop the foam on their surfboards. One night, during this endless summer holiday, Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) makes a drunken pass at Roz, which she all too eagerly accepts. In retaliation his best mate Tom (James Frenchvile) marches right over and seduces Lil, who is also far too easily seduced, and the line between cozy togetherness and borderline incestuous pajama party gets uncomfortably, irrevocably blurred.
The really shocking thing is that after a very brief flirtation with responsibility and propriety, this kinky quartet continues happily boinking away, like one big, impossibly weird family. Twinges of remorse are easily dismissed; as the older friends open admit to each other that they both feel exhilaratingly young and renewed by laying with their opposites’ offspring. Lil, in fact, is so supercharged by her illicit erotic exploits that she doesn’t seem even remotely bothered to be a widow. Roz meanwhile is so enthralled that she won’t even entertain the notion of moving to Sydney to join her devoted and decent husband Harold (Ben Mendelssohn), who has landed a cushy new job. Eventually the boys begin to grow up and find girls their own age, and begin the inevitable process of separating and creating families of their own, while continuing to indulge in their tawdry MILF fantasy lives on the side. This unwholesome foursome remains blissfully oblivious to the damage they are causing to various lives, as the flings stretch on for years; all parties engaging in a bizarre, prolonged Freudian exercise in returning to the womb, in a most strictly literal and icky way.
Adapted by respected scribe Christopher Hampton from Doris Lessing’s novella “The Grandmothers,” Adore takes its lurid porno premise and presents it with the dire solemnity of a funeral march. French director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) has a wonderful sense of composition; with endlessly lovely shots of glistening beaches and inviting, gentle waves the color of lime Jell-O. There is a languid, sleepy pace to the proceedings that adds to the hedonistic fantasy, but also leaves too much space to ponder just how self-absorbed and reckless the characters are. The young men can almost be forgiven because are both are played as utterly clueless, impenetrable slabs of beef. The ladies, however, are too wise to behave so foolishly, and both veteran actresses are too intelligent and adept at their craft to be left hanging in the breeze by the soapy ridiculousness of the plot. Watts never met a role she could keep her clothes on for, or to engage in some form of shame based on screen sex, and she does bring a crazy, seedy intensity to the bedroom scenes.
There is an intriguing undercurrent of Sapphic tension, as if by sleeping with the other’s son these best pals were vicariously expressing their unspoken attraction to each other, but Lil bluntly snorts at the suggestion — “Naaaw, we’re not lezzo’s!”
It is laughably crude moments like this one that undermine the quality of the performances and the lushness of the visuals. The whole picture is unassailably beautiful and unforgivably absurd.
Adore is rated R, has a run time of 111 minutes and is now playing.