Adore ★½

Last year was a bad one for Naomi Watts, first with her awful Diana biopic and now this silly and salacious drama about a pair of childhood friends who fall for each other’s sons. It’s the sort of material that would have garnered knee-jerk headlines the world over a few years ago yet there has barely been any real press about Adore - Anne Fontaine’s English-language directorial debut.

The reason for the lack of column inches is probably down to how forgettable the film is. The premise, based on a Doris Lessing short story, may be provocative but it is too ridiculous to be taken seriously and too straight to be enjoyed as titillating entertainment. Instead, the film resides in a strange and unsuccessful middle-ground that is unlikely to appeal to any audience (which probably explains the lack of theatrical release here in the UK).

Whilst it isn’t much of a stretch to picture Watts and Robin Wright as desirable MILFs the film’s premise fails to ever ring true. The pair star as lifelong friends and neighbours who share everything in life, even their sons. Yet there is no friction between the quartet as they happily embark on open affairs that all four are seemingly fine with. In fact there is barely any chemistry between the cradle-snatching couples as the script fails to provide adequate motive for either affair.

So much dramatic potential is wasted as it rushes through the ridiculous story. Characters willingly go along with the new arrangements and even when major obstacles appear (such as wives and children) they are hastily dealt with. Perhaps Fontaine wanted to take the subject matter seriously but in avoiding the drama and controversial potential of the premise it just becomes a rather tedious slog.

Everybody looks beautiful as does the sun-drenched coastal setting but it is all incredibly superficial. The sons are reduced to little more than shirtless objects of desire whilst the women’s relationship is rarely tested. With only four key characters I had hoped for some fleshing out of the characters but they remain shallow and ill-defined despite the film spanning around a decade of their lives together.

If only Paul Verhoeven had directed this film back in the 1990s it might have delivered the provocative entertainment such a premise deserved (at the very least I’m sure I would have worn out the video tape).

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