Motherlovers – Adoration review


By Simon Miraudo
November 19, 2013

The worst part of Adoration was when I returned to my car and had to pay for my parking, realising that the awfulness of the movie actually took a quantifiable toll on my life: 111 minutes, and $8.50. Anne Fontaine‘s adaptation of Doris Lessing’s short story The Grandmothers is a total boondoggle; a cinematic retelling of a Penthouse letter or R. Kelly song that somehow fails to feel as emotionally truthful as either of those things. It inspired much unintentional laughter from my audience, and some violent, silent shrugging from one patron who kept pointing at the screen in frustration with the events unfolding before her. In fairness, she was just shrugging what we were all thinking.

Naomi Watts and Robin Wright play Lil and Roz, lifelong friends/beach bunnies who start shtupping one another’s sons, and spend a lot of time wistfully staring out towards the coast of New South Wales. Their boys, Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (James Frecheville), stare some as well, but mostly reflect on their motherloving ways by surfing. Imagine my disappointment when it crystalised, by film’s end, that there were more scenes of staring and surfing than actual sex. It’s like … why are we even here?


I enjoyed Frecheville as the shark-eyed, predatory Tom, who only starts sleeping with Lil after discovering Ian in bed with his own mother, Roz. The other three actors are fine, but only Frecheville seems to be actively screwing with everyone, viewers included (a function of his detached character). Meanwhile, the solemn Watts, Wright, and Samuel recite their dialogue as if the lines had been delivered on tablets from atop a mountain, when surely screenwriter Christopher Hampton penned this thing three bottles of wine deep, Simply Red blaring on the stereo; his chuckles stifled by an occasional drunken hiccup. I promise you, it is the only explanation for some of these sequences. When Lil and Roz rationalise their affairs by expressing their serene, post-orgasmic delight (and, grossly, appreciating each other’s pleasure), the crowd erupted. Someone, pour this man another glass.

Poor Naomi Watts. Who’d have thunk that gross-out flop Movie 43 would only wind up the third worst thing she’d appear in this year? With Diana and now Adoration, she’s making a habit of starring in overwrought melodramas populated with what Corky St. Clair would call “bastard people.” Her Australian accent even sounds false, as does Wright’s, but Wright at least has a good reason for it. Both of them seem to have learnt strayan from Leslie Mann in Funny People (“Nahtheeng’s go-ing own ah-rownd he-yar!“). Listen – if you can bear it – to the way they loudly exclaim “Lezz-ohs” (following a neighbour’s misunderstanding of their sexual orientation). It will inspire cultural cringe in even the proudest bogans. It’s also the lone intentional “joke” Adoration has in its arsenal, and it’s one of the few lines to not elicit a laugh. Obviously, it’s a gag that Fontaine and Hampton return to a couple more times, because why stop misjudging the tone now?


Fontaine has produced a picture that is neither beautiful nor provocative nor darkly comic nor sexy nor even slightly involving. The stakes are low, the protagonists, dull, and the pace, limp. Not even the introduction of Jessica Tovey and Sophie Lowe as age-appropriate love interests for the boys provides enough fertile ground for drama (well, certainly none that’s explored). Only Ben Mendelsohn gets away clean; as Roz’s cuckolded husband, he makes a break for Sydney in the first act and we are envious of him throughout the rest of the flick. That the feature is actually called Adore in the United States introduces the terrifying possibility that globetrotting cinephiles could accidentally see this thing twice, should they sleepily select it on a plane, or wander into a foreign theatre none the wiser. The horror. The horror…


Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews.

Adoration arrives in Australian cinemas November 21, 2013.

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