I STILL don’t know what to make of the Australian-French co-production Adoration.
French director Anne Fontaine and Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Doris Lessing’s 2003 novella, The Grandmothers, is a French film with an Australian beach setting. The clash of sensibilities doesn’t work.
Yet DVD Letterbox would watch its stars Robin Wright or Naomi Watts buying their own groceries — hypothetically, officer — and their combined presence, and struggle, in this film is more than enough to justify a look.
The film was hounded during its early festival screenings; hindsight suggests a little unfairly. That said, its premise, or at least Fontaine’s inability to deal with it in any depth, invited derision.
Essentially, lifelong friends Roz (Wright) and Lil (Watts) have two sons, Tom ( Animal
Kingdom’s James Frecheville) and Ian (Xavier Samuel), who grow into strapping young men who each take a shine to their mum’s best friend. Passion, conflict, brooding and embarrassment ensue. Cue the queue of critics lining up to bag
Adoration (MA15+, Hopscotch, 111min, $29.99). That criticism is warranted because the film, languorous and beautiful as it can be, doesn’t address the strangeness or psychological complications of the arrangement.
Fontaine takes the kind of “French” line of so many films produced by France since the new wave: love is love and it can’t be stopped. You can talk about it but don’t attempt to assess or over-complicate it.
Adoration, known in other markets as Adore or Two Mothers, is a surprisingly uncomplicated screenplay from Hampton, who has previously adapted Dangerous
Liaisons and Atonement for the screen before working with Fontaine on 2009’s Coco Before
The Australian beach setting at Seal Rocks on the NSW coast is exquisite but is almost devoid of humour or life (even the affairs feel mechanical rather than combustible).
Which is a shame because Watts is alluring and good and Wright is quiet and credible. Samuel injects some passion into his role and Ben Mendelsohn, playing the husband whose absence sparks all this malarky, breezes in and out seemingly bringing the energy from another film.
If you’re looking for something a little easier, don’t underestimate the British feelgood movie One Chance (PG, Roadshow, 103min, $29.99), based on the true story of a son of a steelworker who longs to be an opera singer and becomes one via the television talent show Britain’s Got Talent. James Corden drops his usual comedy schtick from the charming British TV series Gavin & Stacey to deliver a winning performance for director David Frankel ( The Devil Wears Prada). You know how it ends but it remains a sweet and funny entertainment.