New York Stories – Adore / The Lifeguard / Touchy Feely

Adore

By Glenn Dunks
September 11, 2013

The Manhattan Report: Look, I don’t mean to make readers jealous, but living in New York – hell, even visiting for a brief time – offers you some really great cinema-going opportunities. Currently playing over two whole months at the Museum of the Moving Image is a full career retrospective of the legendary Howard Hawks; from his 1920s silent pictures like the randy 1927 comedy The Cradle Snatchers with its live orchestration and guffaw-inducing feminist twist on the genre (a precursor to The First Wives Club) to Rio Lobo in 1970 and everything in between. Need to catch up on those Marilyn Monroe movies Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Monkey Business? Oscar-nominated Sergeant Yorke? Rio Bravo? The Big Sky? They’re all there. It’s a treasure trove, I tell ya. Pardon me while I vanish down the rabbit hole for a while.

Adore

Adore: The New South Wales coastal region of Seal Rocks is the setting for Anne Fontaine’s screen adaptation of Doris Lessing’s novel The Grandmothers. Adore plays somewhat Shakespearean with its unrelenting – almost incestuous – randiness that sees stars Naomi Watts and Robin Wright wax lyrical about their sons’ “godliness” and “unearthly auras.” It’s all rather preposterous, and yet never preposterous enough. The pompous self-importance with which Fontaine grounds her picture gives way to wails of laughter in the third act where the accumulation of bad character decisions take on a life of their own.

Adore certainly looks gorgeous; Fontaine is well-served by her use of location on this Australian-French co-production. The actors, too, all have moments that indicate a far better feature, with James Frecheville nailing his character’s spiteful, sexual naiveté. If it has one overriding strength it’s that it doesn’t condemn the love at its centre, but rather allows it to develop organically. It’s a shame then that they can never find a tone that acknowledges the inherent silliness while embracing the excitement of dangerous passion. As a result, most viewers will spend more time wondering how Watts and Wright don’t age a day despite a near 20-year timespan spent in the sun than anything else. (It arrives in Australian cinemas – titled Adoration – November 14.)

3/5

the-lifeguard

The Lifeguard: It’s of little surprise to discover The Lifeguard’s writer-director Liz W. Garcia got her start writing and producing for television. Much of her debut feature feels like an extended pilot about a city gal who moves back to her small hometown to rejuvenate her batteries after coming in second best to her boyfriend’s other girlfriend and succumbing to urban malaise in New York City. The film even looks a bit like a sitcom and features stock characters like the gay best friend and somewhat wacky parents. The only thing you likely wouldn’t find on prime time is the in-your-face statutory rape plot between stars Kristen Bell and David Lambert.

Whatever success the flick finds is dependant then upon the actors. Bell deserves credit for stepping away from her traditional image to portray such a thoroughly unlikable character and she does fine work even if the movie is far too thin to hit a homerun. Sadly, Garcia’s screenplay is just too much of a genre rehash to be memorable. Like a fleeting summer romance, it briefly charms and ultimately doesn’t work out. (This does not yet have an Australian release.)

2.5/5

touchy-feely

Touchy Feely: With Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister under her belt (not to mention episodes of Mad Men and New Girl), writer/director Lynn Shelton’s latest can’t help but feel like a bitter disappointment. The whiff of an artistic afterthought permeates throughout Touchy Feely’s escalating series of quirky laughs and unengaging personal dramas that fail to come together into anything substantial. Shelton’s apparent disinterest with the project should only be matched by that of viewers. One of Shelton’s greatest attributes to date has been the way she imbues her unique, original stories with a touching sense of reality. Sadly, nothing about Touchy Feely comes off as anything but contrived and overly affected by fits of whimsy, and there’s little to be found that hasn’t been examined before with greater clarity.

Rosemarie DeWitt plays Abby, a masseuse with a sudden aversion to bodily contact. Once the narrative shifts to Abby’s socially inept dentist brother, played by an unwatchable Josh Pais, and his newfound fame as a healer of TMJ, it all goes downhill. It’s a miracle that DeWitt gets out unscathed alongside Ellen Page and Scoot McNairy, who each have fairly thankless roles. Perhaps Abby’s neuroses have also struck Shelton; it’d certainly explain a lot. Hopefully she recovers soon. (Touchy Feely is going direct-to-DVD in Australia, arriving November 6.)

1.5/5

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