Movie Review: "Adore"

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A pair of childhood friends and neighbors fall for each other's sons.
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Movie Review: "Adore"

Rating: R (sexual content and language)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: September 6, 2013
Directed by: Anne Fontaine
Genre: Drama

Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) are lifelong friends who grew up in a sunny, picturesque beach in Australia. Having grown up in a virtual paradise, the two women decided not to move once they were old enough to leave, instead putting down roots in their hometown. They managed to buy houses on the same beach on which they've spent countless hours together, convincing their respective husbands that it was the ideal place to raise a family. Each woman had a baby boy and began their lives just a few doors down from each other, with their sons becoming best friends and repeating the same lifelong friendship on the beach that their mothers had years before them.

When Lil's husband tragically dies in a car crash, she begins spending more time at Roz's house, especially once Roz's husband Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) takes a teaching job out of town. They begin spending their days at the beach together again, watching their adult sons surfing and trying to figure out what will happen when they become empty nesters. Then one night, Lil's son Ian (Xavier Samuel) spends the night at Roz's house, as he had many times as a child. Only this time, he is all grown up and can't hide his attraction to Roz. They sleep together and promise not to tell anyone, but both Lil and Roz's son Tom (James Frecheville) get wind of the transgression and begin sleeping together in retaliation.

The real problem begins when the two couples begin to take a liking to each other that is more than just physical. Lil and Tom begin to have feelings for each other, as do Roz and Ian. Both couples embark on affairs that last many years, even as the relationships threaten to destroy Roz's marriage and the friendship between the two women.

The background of a film is often as important as what is going on in the foreground. Many productions would simply not be the same had they been set anywhere else. A good example of this is the television show "Breaking Bad," where the New Mexico desert is practically a part of the cast. Similarly, the sandy shores of the private New South Wales beach the characters inhabit play an important part in "Adore." Lil and Roz have so much history tied to the beach that it essentially becomes a character in the narrative, giving the setting greater importance than the background it plays in most films. The crashing waves and tides occasionally serve as metaphors for what is happening to the characters.

Director Anne Fontaine shot the film in CinemaScope, a largely obsolete form of widescreen cinematography that hasn't been used regularly since the 1970s. In an age where digital filmmaking is dominant—and much cheaper to produce—CinemaScope seems like an oddball choice for Fontaine to use. She manages to use it successfully though; CinemaScope enhances the idyllic setting of the film, creating a lush atmosphere and mood that are easily sustained throughout the movie. The actors also look remarkable in the film, in part because CinemaScope, in contrast to digital cinematography, tends to hide little blemishes and physical imperfections. Considering how much skin is shown in "Adore," that means a whole lot of perfect-looking bodies. Even the blue waters of Australia look even more inviting than usual, thanks in large part to Fontaine's choice of film.

The script was written by Christopher Hampton, whose ear for lovely dialogue has previously been a part of "Dangerous Liasons," for which he won an Oscar, as well as the superb "Atonement." Though the dialogue is occasionally terse, what isn't said with words is expressed physically as the two couples go deeper down the rabbit hole they create. The best dialogue is found in the first and final acts of the film, when Lil and Roz are on their own, trying to figure out the next step in their lives. Hampton imbues these scenes with an undertone of love and regret as the women struggle to figure out where they fit into a world that has changed drastically as a consequence of their actions. With two beautiful, middle-aged women at the core, Hampton takes full advantage of the opportunity to bring out some of his most wistful dialogue to date. It's part of what makes "Adore" a touching film about friendship, loss, and life.

Rating: 3 out of 5