By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
At first, Adoration seems like a return to sinister form for Atom Egoyan, whose previous three films (Felicia’s Journey, Ararat, Where the Truth Lies) lacked the hypnotic pull and dramatic intensity of the director’s best work (Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter).
But after a promising start, this ambitious but ultimately clunky and unwieldy movie dissolves into a pile of ideas in dire need of dramatization. Like his fellow Canadian auteur David Cronenberg, Egoyan often uses the thriller genre as a means to explore complex conceits about the effects of technology on personal relations and familial dynamics.
In Adoration, though, Egoyan fails to fold his admittedly intriguing subject — the ethical and moral roots of terrorism — into a captivating storyline. Inspired by the true story of a Jordanian man who planted a bomb in his pregnant girlfriend’s luggage before she boarded a flight to Israel, Adoration relates what happens after a high-school teacher (Arsinee Khanjian, Egoyan’s wife) assigns her class to translate a newspaper account of the incident into French.
One particularly creative student, the orphaned Simon (Devon Bostick), takes the assignment a step further, recounting the story as if the couple involved had been his parents, who had died in a suspicious car crash.
The teacher is so impressed that she encourages Simon to present his work to the class as fact. The story quickly spreads via the Internet, where everyone has an opinion, and Simon’s false persona solidifies. Meanwhile, the teacher arranges to meet with Simon’s guardian, his uncle Tom (Scott Speedman), and starts asking questions about the deaths of the teen’s parents.
Adoration unfolds in Egoyan’s typically elliptical manner, with shifting points of view and chronologies, although the result this time is more of a muddle than an alluring enigma. You have to wait until the movie’s last scene for all the pieces to click into place, but unlike with the director’s previous films, this time the trick feels like exactly that.
Adoration is certainly ambitious, and Egoyan’s serious intent is undeniable. But the filmmaker overlooks the fact that a movie, no matter how thoughtful or provocative, is doomed to fail if it doesn’t also entertain.
Cast: Arsinee Khanjian, Devon Bostick, Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Noam Jenkins.
Writer-director: Atom Egoyan.
Producers: Atom Egoyan, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss.
A Sony Pictures Classics release. Running time: 101 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: South Beach; in Palm Beach: Shadowood.