How we perceive reality, whether in art, history, or technology, has been the monkey on the back of several directors, but none have seemed as seduced by the conundrum as Mr. Egoyan has been for the last two decades. The woman with the mask is Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian), a teacher who we meet early in the film and who has become entangled in quite the imbroglio with her student Simon (Devon Bostick). Together, Simon and Sabine have engineered a false identity for Simon, casting him as the son of a terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane heading to Israel by hiding a bomb in his wife's luggage. Simon uses the identity in a presentation to his classmates, who take it as gospel, and soon enough, he is the focus of international news. But, in reality, Simon's parents died in a car accident, leaving Uncle Tom (a very good Scott Speedman) as the young man's sole guardian.
The timeline of Adoration has been chopped and minced, sending an already complex and thick narrative into hyperdrive. The story itself is relatively simple but, as always, Egoyan stresses motives and deep-held emotions that render the film into a Rubik's Cube of personas and manufactured histories. The ideas that Egoyan is playing with here are fascinating, but the way they are presented and conceptualized is overbearing and muddled, which causes the film to feel laborious and earnestly weighty. The discussions Adoration will spark are far more interesting than the film itself.
Whatever its flaws, Adoration is certainly Egoyan's strongest work since his masterful adaptation of Russell Banks' The Sweet Hereafter. There are still moments here of genuine befuddlement, such as when a scorned cab driver threatens Sabine and Tom during lunch, and there's a very real, strange intrigue to the way Egoyan and his regular cinematographer Paul Sarossy shoot Simon's exchanges with a screen full of opinions in his high-tech video chats. Perhaps it is because the film is so openly topical that I didn't feel the same hypnotic pull that I did when I first saw Exotica or The Adjuster. Maybe by embracing a conflict that is obviously very personal to him, as he did in Ararat, Egoyan finds himself unable to walk in his own hall of mirrors again.
Who needs a hug?
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th April 2009
Box Office USA: $93.5k
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 60 Rotten: 38
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Atom Egoyan
Producer: Atom Egoyan, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss
Screenwriter: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Devon Bostick as Simon, Rachel Blanchard as Rachel, Louca Tassone as Young Simon, Kenneth Welsh as Morris, Yuval Daniel as Security Officer, Scott Speedman as Tom, Jeremy Wright as Delivery Guy, Arsinée Khanjian as Sabine