We meet Roz and Lil as two little girls, best friends. They are beatific, sun-kissed children on the Australian coast. The girls grow up in the opening minutes of Adore, get married, have boys, the boys grow up to handsome young men in a flash.
Roz (Robin Wright) is married to Will (Ben Mendelsohn) and mother of Tom (James Frecheville). Right next door is Lil (Naomi Watts), widowed, having raised her son, Ian (Xavier Samuel), on her own.
Will is discontented and takes a job in Sydney. He thinks Roz's real relationship is with Lil. "He's not saying we're lezzos?" Lil asks Roz.
Adore fascinatingly, uncompromisingly explores friendships and relationships that go beyond labels. Roz and Lil watch their 19-year-old boys surf: "They're beautiful," Roz says. "They're like young gods." (Note: They are like that.)
The moms and sons stare at one another, talk openly, the alcohol flows. Four best friends over two generations: Lines are crossed.
Adore reaffirms the notion that if you put a bunch of hot people on an Australian beach together, they'll want to have sex with each other — and the film leaves little doubt that Watts, Wright, Frecheville, and Samuel are four of the most attractive people on the planet: bare, slim, tan, sea-salted skin in quadruplicate. Is it different that the sexual longings are from two women for the sons of their best friends, skirting the incestuous, the Oedipal?
Well, probably definitely yeah. However, part of what makes Adore so compelling is that it pushes the lines further than you typically see them go but finds in the novelty plenty of universality. Where does a sexual idealization of youth cross with a fear of mortality? Where does friendship intersect with homosexuality? And when is a feeling just typical because it can simply be explained as love?
"The whole thing is unacceptable," Roz says. But it feels good, so they reconcile and justify it. "It's scary," Lil says, but admits, "I don't want to stop. I don't see why we have to."
The ensemble cast is terrific, particularly ... well, all of them are so good it's not fair to single any one out.
Adore is relentlessly plotted and advanced. Secrets are not so for long. The film is based on the novella The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing (Nobel Prize winner, The Golden Notebook). Lessing, director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel), and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons) are not as interested in unrequited longing as they are examining the fallout and consequences of it acted upon. Jealousy is compounded, embraced and normalized but not properly dealt with. It is scary, but it's not nearly as lurid as it sounds. Fontaine's direction is assured but measured.
Adore is a coming-of-age tale of a different sort. Like most things, like most people, it starts off as one thing and ends up as another.
Opens Friday, September 13th
Studio on the Square