Magazine article Metro Magazine

Much Adore about Nothing: Anne Fontaine's Adoration: When a Woman Falls for Her Best Friend's Son, and Her Own Son Starts a Relationship with Her Lover's Mother-Amid Characteristically Australian White Sand and Azure Waters-We Get a Uniquely Beautiful Yet Salaciously Superficial Story

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Much Adore about Nothing: Anne Fontaine's Adoration: When a Woman Falls for Her Best Friend's Son, and Her Own Son Starts a Relationship with Her Lover's Mother-Amid Characteristically Australian White Sand and Azure Waters-We Get a Uniquely Beautiful Yet Salaciously Superficial Story

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It's hardly surprising that Australian artists are so drawn to this country's beach culture. From a purely aesthetic point of view, it's impossible to deny the visual appeal of long stretches of white sand and golden sunbeams on bronzed, athletic bodies. And, of course, there's familiarity: 85 per cent of the population live within 50 kilometres of the coast. (1) But it's the beach's cultural cache that pulls creative types time and time again. Attached to the crashing waves is a mythology of awakening that feels undeniably linked to our heritage.

Almost no creative field is immune to it: we see this mythology play out in books like Tim Winton's The Turning and Michael Noonan's The December Boys, plays such as Nick Enright's Blackrock, songs like Daryl Braithwaite's 'One Summer' and Warumpi Band's 'My Island Home', and the television series Home and Away, Paradise Beach and Ship to Shore. Of course, there are also many films examining local beach culture from Storm Boy (Henri Safran, 1976) to Newcastle (Dan Castle, 2008) and Drift (Ben Nott & Morgan O'Neill, 2013). That these texts almost always associate beachside awakening with the sexuality of young men makes Anne Fontaine's Adoration (2013) seem like just another in the series. However, while masculine sexuality is very much a part of the film's story arc, it's the female element that gives Adoration whatever forward momentum it can muster. Not at all like Puberty Blues (whether the 1979 book by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey, the 1981 movie adaptation by Bruce Beresford, or the acclaimed Network Ten series), Fontaine's adaptation of the late Doris Lessing's 2003 novella 'The Grandmothers' focuses on the 'awakening' of two older women, making this picturesque film unique.

Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) are lifelong best friends who each begin an affair with a younger man, Tom (James Frecheville) and Ian (Xavier Samuel) respectively, that snowballs into genuine affection. Lil pushes aside a potential love interest, her co-worker Saul (Gary Sweet), who pursues her with dimwitted puppy-dog eyes. Similarly, Roz begins to lose interest in Harold (Ben Mendelsohn), her long-term boyfriend and Tom's father. That each woman just happens to fall in love with her best friend's son is the morally dubious core of the film and, ultimately, its greatest challenge.

By choosing the New South Wales coastal locality of Seal Rocks as the setting for the characters' enclave, Adoration forces its characters into a life that lacks credibility, harming the film in the process. We see little of their external lives--Roz runs an art gallery and Lil owns a yacht-development company of some sort, but little is revealed about what they actually do. However, they are shown spending their downtime, of which they seemingly have a lot, reminiscing about their formative years while flicking through photo albums amid the embarrassed snickers of their sons. They spend an inordinate amount of time at the beach, and, given that Adoration spans some sixteen years, these two (admittedly very beautiful) women don't appear to age a day, let alone get so much as an uneven tan from their decades in the sun.

Fontaine has spoken of wanting to explore the notion of a 'fusional foursome' (2) and, to an extent, she has succeeded. The four live for each other --forming a peculiar 'family' that only makes their sexual liaisons even more questionable. But if Adoration gets one thing spot-on, it's the way it explores these relationships, as envisaged in Oscar-winner Christopher Hampton's screenplay. Lil and Roz casually stroking the boys' hair or peering out of their open-plan beachfront houses at their sons' lithe bodies make the allusions to incest undeniable. Yet as Lil and Roz become more emotionally attached to Tom and Ian, the filmmakers remain on their side, never once portraying them as predators (or 'cougars', as today's pop culture savvies might label them). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.