Anne Fontaine’s first English-language film Adore, to put it crudely, is about two mothers fucking each others’ sons. Both grown-up men, of course. What were you thinking? Decry/indulge whatever perversions inside your head – Adore tries its damndest to be a less-jokey remake of Adam Sandberg and Justin Timberlake’s Saturday Night Live sketch Motherlover (with Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson both standing in as the lascivious matriarchs), injecting as much full-bodied drama as possible in a desperate bid to not make you laugh, which is especially hard when the proceedings are as preposterous as the things that happen in Adore. The first half of the film is a prime example, where the potentially parodic MILF-porn subtext constantly threatens to push the entire show into farcical levels. Naomi Watts and Robin Wright’s bourgeouis beach-bum mothers (perennially lounging in an isolated Australian beach in their bikinis) sigh sloppily and utter ludicrous things like “We’ve done quite all right, haven’t we?”, as they stare lustfully at an Abercrombie & Fitch advert playing in front of them, featuring their sons’ tantalising physiques, the camera documenting in slow-motion their sun-kissed tans, washboard abs and tight surfing shorts. Not that the sons, played by James Frecheville and Xavier Samuels, aren’t seductive – they function nothing more as pretty young things to which their mothers project their pride/lust/sheer fucking ennui.
And when both cougars do get it in on with each others’ offspring, the result is an absurdly eroticised soap opera where Fontaine squats and pisses all over her characters. Instead of pulling each others’ hairs out, the mothers not so much compare notes as morally support each other all throughout – because, hey, that’s what BFF’s do in real life. They ask whether they’re happy banging the other son. To be fair, there are moments when Fontaine and screenwriter Christopher Hampton manage to flesh out the destructive human consequences of an ill-conceived, illicit affair frowned upon by society in the film’s more contemplative latter half, but these few moments are all too brief, soon abandoned to prioritise other enterprise such as the escalating implausibility of the sons’ reverse-Oedipal obsession of their mothers, who barely age over the years except a wrinkle or two. Watts and Wright look gorgeous in their age, yes, both extracting varying degrees of performances from the given material. My bet is that both agreed to sign up not for the nuance of characters, but for the paid holiday – sun, beach, sex, hunks – all in one delusional package. The closest Adore comes to a real sense of comeuppance is the four characters’ tragic isolation from the rest of the world, a message soon obliterated by the nagging possibility that they’ve all deliberately pushed away everyone so they can continually shag themselves forever till death do they part.[separator type=”space”] DIRECTOR: Anne Fontaine | CAST: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuels, James Frecheville | SCREENPLAY: Christopher Hampton | RUNNING-TIME: 100 mins | GENRE: Drama | COUNTRY: Australia/France