Movie Review: 'Adore' (2013) - An Expert Expose on Narcissism

Two women (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) who have grown up together, spending every day in each other’s company in an idyllic paradise; face the future as middle-age sets in, and life without their respective sons, becomes immanent. For typical mothers this would be a time to transition into focusing on other aspects of adult life.

For Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts), life takes a few unexpected turns in "Adore." When Roz’s husband (Ben Mendelsohn) gets a new teaching job in the city, she refuses to come citing their son Tom (James Frecheville) needing to spend his last summer before going away for school, in their home place. Remaining with them is the long ago widowed Lil and her son Ian (Xavier Samuel).

Lil and Roz are incredibly close, symbiotic in their bond. This co-dependence is something their sons share with them. Director Anne Fontaine zeroes in on the dysfunction, when one night, things go too far and Ian hooks up with Roz, a woman he claims is his second mother.

As bizarre as that is, things get even weirder when Lil follows suit by hooking up with Roz’s son, Tom, at first acting out of a sorted revenge before it turns into something supposedly legitimate.

These two women break every “girl code” imaginable and strangest of all; they quickly come to enjoy each other’s newfound relationships. Their only concern is keeping their youthful beaus attention and bragging about how good the intimacy in their affairs is. Never mind, they are boasting about the other’s son.

As the film continues, there is not a shred of decency left, among a single one of the film’s main characters. They are repugnantly self-indignant, indulgent and unremorseful for anything they have done and the hurt they heap on others, as a result of their relationships.

As it devolves, one can only hope they each get what they so richly deserve. The pay-off in that regard is massively disappointing. These are selfish people and the film can be commended for staying true to its protagonists/antagonists’ nature.

These are not people who would feel contrition. They simply exist to fulfill their own wants and desires, sadly making other people, the victims. As an expose on narcissism, the movie offers an expert glimpse. If only it felt its characters were actually guilty of the label.

Fontaine’s directing style allows for the audience to feel like a fly on the wall, as the aberrant behavior never ceases with any censorship. After the first half, one would think it could not get worse and then the second half takes place.

As incensing as the egocentricity in the film is, Fontaine never lets another character give voice to a varying viewpoint and in that regard, she pushes the narrative from that of window voyeurism into unabashed approval. Christophe Beaucarne’s cinematography is one of the film’s; only redeeming factors as he captures the melodrama with a steady hand and magnificently showcases the beautiful vistas of its exotic locale.

As for the performances, Naomi Watts steps up to the plate with a brave offering; allowing a moment of sheer vulnerability to glisten in the spotlight as Lil looks at herself in the mirror, studying her aged complexion. It’s not a scene or angle, a lot of actresses would give access to and in doing so, she reminds one, why Hollywood fell under her spell, all of those years ago. No matter the role, Watts keeps it elegantly real and authentic. 

The performances by her co-stars Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville are all respectable. A main hindrance of “Adore” lies with the complete lack of sexual chemistry between its leads.

It’s an additive that would have aided the film, somewhat. Without it, grasping why these paramours are so invested in one another is impossible to comprehend or buy into.

Taboos are a fascinating subject matter, if all of the angles are explored honestly. “Adore” exists in a bubble, its characters as dependent on one another as an addict is to heroin. The unhealthy manifestations are blatant and yet the film ignores it, failing to capture enough ground to be compelling or memorably controversial. It’s a story that sidesteps conflict by failing to acknowledge that there is any, no matter how obvious. Rating: 3/10

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