Oh, to live on a hill overlooking a calm, azure sea with never a storm, a foul wind, or other than a cotton ball cloud; to have a body of a teenager, well one's own body and one's lover's, as well. Oh. the privacy, the erotic pleasure, the passion and commitment of an adoring lover. For 110 minutes all we middle-aged women who live in the real world can enjoy just that.
The plot seems like a momentary erotic fantasy of Doris Lessing's fertile imagination, which was then extrapolated upon by Christopher Hampton to give it some sense of how this fantasy could actually happen in the real world and what the short range and long range outcomes could be. Since this idealistic dream of older women is happening to two best friends at the same time, we get to follow two possible timelines, several years long (though it doesn't show on either of their faces or bodies).
Lil and Roz have been next door neighbors and best friends in an idyllic beach town in Australia all their lives. They both married, had one son each, one being widowed, the other married, but always at her side for support. Their sons grew up, both mothers noticing while watching them surfing one day: "Did we do that?" "Must have." "They're like young gods." Humm. Seems their sons were thinking the same juicy thoughts of their respective mother's friend. This was not just a cougar meeting a younger man, not just an older woman having an affair with a friend's son; but a relationship so close as to be considered surrogate incest since both mothers raised their sons as closely as one family. And both mothers admit, "We crossed the line."
Though sensitively executed by director Anne Fontaine, using the brilliant talents of Wright and Watts to the optimum effect, I still felt manipulated by this tawdry tale, much as I expect "50 Shades of Gray" will do when it is released. Of course, "Adore" allows much easier access to fantasy role playing since it is about women of the audience's age. Perhaps it really is no more than just a middle-aged woman's wisp of a sexy and socially unacceptable whimsy and should be accepted for that and enjoyed. Certainly, it is a daydream revenge directed towards all men who leave their first wives for trophies, and then some. No need to worry that viewers will act upon their urges; it's not so easy if you don't look like Wright or Watts, and unfortunately, so few of us have withstood the rigors of age the way they have. By the way, what is the characters' secret for keeping their skin flawless and unaffected by sun damage after a lifetime of daily sunbathing? Now, there's the fantasy!
Director: Anne Fontaine
Writer: Screenplay by Christopher Hampton from the novella by Doris Lessing
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frecheville, Sophie Lowe, Jessica Tovey, Gary Sweet, Ben Mendelsohn
Rating: 110 min.
Opening September 6 at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco, as well as Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley and Camera 7 Cinemas in Campbell