Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adoration: Grade B

Adoration (2008)

Devon Bostick, Scott Speedman, Arsinée Khanjian. Writer-Director Adam Ergoyan.

A high school student (Bostick) writes a short story for his French class about how his father was a Muslim terrorist who attempted to smuggle a bomb onto an Israeli airline to blow up his mother (pregnant with himself) and everyone else. The teacher (Khanjihan) likes it and since she also teaches drama, encourages him to develop the story into a dramatic monolog, which he does, and he tries it out on his friends, on the internet, as a true tale. They believe him and he does not disabuse them of the ruse. We find out later that his parents were killed in a car crash, which is why he lives with his uncle (Speedman).

So is that the whole movie? -- Boy plays practical joke on his classmates? That’s just about it. But by intercutting dramatizations from the parents’ imagined past and their real past, Ergoyan manages to create some confusion about the truth, even though it is just obfuscation. Also there is an interesting relationship between the teacher and the uncle, who are both concerned about the boy’s developing sense of personal identity, not having known his parents. So overall, it is a pretty lame story. Incidental mentions of terrorism, Muslim extremism, racism, and other political themes are just gratuitous comments, adding nothing.

But what makes the movie strong are the magnificent visuals and the interesting dialog. Cinematography is stunningly beautiful (although the lighting is overdone in some indoor scenes, such as in the violin shop). Many shots involve striking symbolic imagery that you want to stop and examine in detail. The dialog has an extremely spare quality about it, not exactly realistic, but not exactly artificial either. It has a Mametesque quality in its minimalism and use of ambiguity, but it is not an imitation. There is an “Ergoyan” style of dialog, I would say, and I like it. Music is quite pleasant (violins, since a violin features in the story), but is not distinguished. Acting is very strong by the three principals. Overall then, the story is not successful but good acting and good visuals raise the quality to above average.

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