17 June 2009


Written & Directed by: Atom Egoyan
Full credits from IMDb

Atom Egoyan suffers from Shayamalan Syndrome: from any objective standard, his films, like Exotica and Ararat, are awful, packed with poor performances, stilted verbosity and solemn self-importance—a general pretentiousness. So why are they so damn appealing? Is it the sincerity? Or, at least, the absence of irony? The visual elegance? Adoration is classic Egoyan, hobbled by the aforementioned faults that impair the rest of his oeuvre; after Where the Truth Lies, an erotic (homo and otherwise) Martin and Lewis murder mystery, he has decided to tackle Matters of Grave Importance, like the emotional and spiritual destruction caused by terrorism (gasp!), as well as the natures of fiction and technology, the latter a pet motif of the director since his Next of Kin days, at least. Watch a digital camera melt in the flames of a fire and ponder its Meaning.

Devon Bostick plays Simon (badly), a high-school student encouraged by his French teacher Sabine (Egoyan regular ArsinĂ©e Khanjian) to engage in a drama exercise: pretend he is the son of a couple from an old newspaper article whose father sent his pregnant wife onto an Israel-bound plane with a suitcase, unbeknownst to her, full of explosives that failed to detonate. Emotionally, it’s rooted in Simon’s real http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifexperience: when he was a child, his parents died in a car accident, a possibly intentional one if you believe Simon’s hate-filled grandfather (Kenneth Welsh, whom Egoyan criminally tethers to a death bed. The brilliantly manic actor who brought Windom Earle to life should be playing Jack Napier, not a bed-bound grouch!) The boy was subsequently raised by his uncle, Tom, played by a wonderfully moody Scott Speedman. (“Uncle Tom” may be an intentional joke, er, Significant Detail, as racism is one of the film’s most prevalent themes.)

Simon’s story is made public and becomes an Internet sensation, a hot topic of histrionic discussion between classmates and academics; it also exposes Simon to a gallery of victim fetishizers and unbalanced kooks—either a frightening vision of a society’s individual consciences or a wholly contrived and phony one. Egoyan clumsily works his way through hot topics like Racism! And Xenophobia!—teens compare and contrast capitalism and terrorism, and debate the validity of such an exercise, with unintentional hilarity—treating his college freshman knowledge of how society functions as prophetic wisdom, imparted to us ignorant theatergoers in screams.

At the same time, he challenges the function of storytelling with accusations of inherent emotional exploitation.

“I don’t understand this pretending stuff, I don’t like this pretending stuff,” Tom tells Sabine. “You’re messing with people.”
“That’s not what I’m doing,” she responds feebily.
“That’s exactly what you’re doing,” he answers. A-ha!

It’s Egoyan talking to himself perhaps, conscious of his own manipulations, especially a melodramatic third-act twist. Adoration’s ideas are often complex and intriguing, if inelegantly presented; luckily, their expression is captured gracefully by an ever-prowling camera, underlining that Egoyan is Looking for Answers here, people! His films, so formally sumptuous, would benefit from being in another language; if his dialogue could hide behind subtitles’ cloak of legitimacy, he might be a more generally adored filmmaker, rather than a reluctantly tolerated one. Grade: B

Watch the trailer:

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