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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.14%
Worth A Look: 7.14%
Pretty Bad42.86%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Can't be said to inspire its title."
3 stars

"Adoration" is a movie about unreliable narrators, though it does not necessarily feature one. That sets it up for a bit of trouble, since it isn't quite clever enough to impress with its storytelling gimmick. Using that gimmick takes time away from the actual story, so that falls just a bit short. It's also heavy-handed but kind of vague with the moralizing, so while it has good intentions all around, it's never up to its ambitions.

The narrator is Simon (Devon Bostick), a teenager being raised by his Uncle Tom (Scott Speedman) who, when given an assignment in French class to translate a news story about a Canadian woman whose Middle-Eastern husband placed a bomb in her luggage on her flight to Israel fifteen years ago, does so in the first person; if the bomb had exploded, he concludes, he would never have been born. His teacher Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian) encourages him to explore it further, and the discussion eventually makes its way online, where it spreads from classmates to academics to the general public.

Despite some provocative comments made by Simon's dying grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) which are included in a way as to be misleading, the actual facts become clear fairly rapidly. The film plays it cute for a little while longer, eventually introducing other, even weaker mysteries/ambiguities to unravel. It spends so much time on getting to notice that characters are lying about or omitting events or otherwise emphasizing perspective that when it does present us with a scene that Simon and Tom couldn't possibly know about, it may feel like a cheat, even though writer/director Atom Egoyan has not placed third person omniscient out of bounds.

It's not just the storytelling tricks that Egoyan uses that cause trouble, but the motivation of the characters for using them and the way they go about it. It basically comes down to some characters stirring the pot for the express purpose of stirring the pot, although the profile of agitator doesn't quite fit them. It works well enough in the case of Simon, I suppose - losing his parents the way he did can make a kid dark and the influence of his rather nasty grandfather (both through words and genes) could make up the rest, but I would have liked to be more convinced. It's Sabine that's the real stretch; her deal isn't so far-fetched or unpleasant as to damage the film, but it doesn't provoke the best of reactions. I found myself thinking "really, Atom? that's the way you want to go with this?"

Arsinée Khanjian gets saddled with a lot of stuff like that, frankly, and that Sabine is still being taken somewhat seriously by the audience near the end says good things about her performance. She's helped immensely in this by Scott Speedman, whose character has to actually see the strange stuff up close, acknowledge it, and move past it. He's a good everyman, convincing us of details like how Tom handles a job that sees him despised (tow truck driver). He's nicely unsure of himself, in contrast to Welsh, who is all too confident in his beliefs.

There are other fairly well-done things sprinkled throughout the film. There's some sharp satire of how people respond to these sort of visceral ideas (Maury Chaykin has a sort-of funny cameo here). The flashbacks to a fateful family dinner are fascinating. Bostick plays his role fairly well. As is the case in much of Egoyan's work, what's done well isn't always pleasant, so even when Adoration works, it is more something to be admired than to be enjoyed.

It just doesn't work often enough to rate as a top feel-bad movie. It's got plenty of interesting and/or provocative ideas, but none are given a chance to really get under the audience's skin, and they could be put together much better.

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originally posted: 05/29/09 23:14:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/15/09 Sevarian A fine, complex film with tough quetions and no easy answers. Egoyan is always challenging 5 stars
9/23/09 Perdunok Hello Perdunky! 4 stars
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  08-May-2009 (R)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2009


  DVD: 13-Oct-2009

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