Watts, Wright romantic drama unloved in the US
There is little love from the critics and minimal interest from audiences in the US for Adoration, the Australian romantic drama starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as best friends who end up bonking each other’s teenage sons.
The first English-language feature from French director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel, The Girl From Monaco), the film opened on 57 screens in 23 US cities last weekend.
Renamed Adore in the US, it took $US125,000 in three days, for a paltry per-screen average of $2,200.
Judging by those figures and the barrage of bad reviews, eOne Hopscotch faces a marketing challenge when it launches the film in Oz in November.
Christopher Hampton wrote the screenplay based on the Doris Lessing novella The Grandmothers. The cast includes James Frecheville and Xavier Samuel as the sons plus Gary Sweet, Ben Mendelsohn and Sophie Lowe.
The buzz on the movie hasn’t been great since it premiered at the Sundance festival in January where, in the words of Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers, it “was nearly laughed off the screen.”
In his review, Travers opined, “Watts and Wright are two of the best and most beautiful actresses anywhere. And it's no hardship watching them writhe around with naked boys. But to what purpose? Director Anne Fontaine takes a solemn approach that won't quit. Working from a script by the gifted Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement), who seems to have traded his wit for a pay check, Fontaine manages the trick of making sex joyless. Like porn. Then she tops that by draining her film of variety, longing and feminist insight.”
The New York Post’s Kyle Smith was similarly scathing, branding the film as a “a silly piece of soft-focus smut set in Australia [that] takes itself so seriously that I couldn’t stop laughing… I have no idea why such strapping young men would be so desperate for sex as to hook up with a couple of museum artefacts they’ve known all their lives, but this hokey soap views contrivance as a small price to pay for lush mommy fantasy.”
Among the few critics who were even slightly positive, RogerEbert.com’s Christy Lemire said, “Adore is, as my late mother would say in describing Sidney Sheldon novels, ‘good trash.’"
The US distributor Exclusive Releasing planned to expand to six further markets in two weeks. That strategy may now seem unwise. Maybe the film will resonate better on Video-on-Demand platforms, where it was released at the same time as cinemas.