‘Adore’ doesn’t even allow its characters to enjoy their illicit sex

Robin Wright and Naomi Watts sleep with eachother's sons in "Adore." Credit: Exclusive Media
Robin Wright and Naomi Watts sleep with eachother’s sons in “Adore.”
Credit: Exclusive Media

‘Adore’
Director: Anne Fontaine
Stars: Robin Wright, Naomi Watts
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

Filmmaker Adrian Lyne made a name for himself with reactionary films that reveled in illicit sex, then made their protagonists pay unduly for their crimes. Much like the Cecil B. DeMille films of the 1930s, which boasted orgies and nudity only to preach the word of God at the end, the likes of “Fatal Attraction,” “Indecent Proposal” and “Unfaithful” — to say nothing of his mirthless “Lolita” — titillated then upbraided.

The leads in “Adore” — two cougar besties, Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts), who start sleeping with the other’s strapping son — don’t even get to enjoy their various rolls in the hays. Even when they’re gallivanting about, making the beast with two backs with boys they’ve known since their births, the fun is weighed down by knowledge that they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing and, at some point, they’ll pay dearly.

It doesn’t even have the nerve to be subtle, either. “Did we do that?,” Lil jokingly asks as she and longtime friend Roz relax off their Australian beach homes, admiring the golden gods they birthed. Before you know it, Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) is shoving his tongue down Roz’s throat. Upset at discovering their tryst, Roz’s more sensitive son Tom (James Frecheville) puts the moves on Lil — first out of a twisted form of revenge, but eventually out of love. Roz and Lil are both uncomfortable with this arrangement, but their friendship proves more powerful. Meanwhile, the boys, jilted by each, try for real adult relationships. But can they ever have real relationships? (Spoiler: No.)

The script by playwright Christopher Hampton, from Doris Lessing’s novella “The Grandmothers,” goes light on overly-melodramatic plot twists. Even one character’s brief self-destructive streak only leaves a few minor scars. Some crazy hairpin turns and real tragedies may have spiced up what turns out to be a straightforward wrist-slapping for characters who should never have done something so apparently horrific as bang family friends.

Director Anne Fontaine (“The Girl From Monaco,” “Coco Before Chanel”) keeps things tasteful — too tasteful, considering she’s working with what’s essentially a plot to a Russ Meyer nudie pic. The actors almost sell it. Watts is predictably great, never overplaying the inner turmoil. Wright, though, is aging into an actress of real gravitas, able to convey deep anguish by doing very little. Together they give this small-minded sex saga the depth it wished it had in spades.


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