If Atom Egoyan weren’t in such a hurry to cram all sorts of up-to-the-minute gewgaws (vidchats, xenophobia, handheld video recorders, even terror attacks) into the unwieldy, disjointed contraption that is his twelfth feature, Adoration, he might have turned out a mildly entertaining, if overly intellectualized piss-take on 1940s B-grade family melodrama—it even comes complete with shimmering Bernard Hermann-esque strings. Adoration‘s the unlikely spawn of Ararat‘s politically correct historical guilt complexes and the lurid classic noir drag of Where the Truth Lies, and while it betters both of its immediate predecessors (generally by leaps and bounds, it must be said), it’s still a fairly silly affair. Imagine a dickless Leave Her to Heaven with a degree in media studies. Compulsive in his inability to abandon his “core concerns”—those things that auteurs are generally required to repeatedly insert into their films, whatever the cost to watchable dramaturgy, which here include screens within screens, the distancing, seductive pull of technology, and the shiftiness of identity—Egoyan clutters a generally workable mystery with the deadly weight of dusty concepts.
Egoyan’s best films jumble narrative and fracture perspectives around certain recurring themes (usually loss, absence, and memory). Until Exotica his actors succeeded more as examples of inspired pornoesque amateurism, but given his tendency of late to write ideas rather than characters, the increasing equality in emphasis between performance and structure has proven deadly. Both Ararat and Where the Truth Lies suffered from weak protagonists: David Alpay’s slim shoulders proved unable to bear the heavy weight of suppressed Armenian genocide, and the latter’s Alison Lohman, though game, wasn’t vamp enough for a role that required tough, knowing sexuality. At Adoration‘s center is an Egoyan male in the Alpay mode—frail, pretty, intellectual, and largely vapid. Devon Bostick’s Simon is a high schooler obsessed with the death of his parents who is goaded by his French teacher (Arsinee Khanjian)—for reasons unknown—into delivering a lengthy monologue to his classmates in which he recasts his family history through the lens of an aborted terror attempt, with his father as the terrorist and his pregnant mother the unwitting bomb mule. As the young’uns do these days, Simon takes his story to the internet, creating an explosive debate that ricochets throughout a set of implausibly staged video chatroom discussions (maybe he should have Tweeted) and back into the nonvirtual world.
Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert’s review of Adoration.