Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Adore vs. Just Like a Woman, two films beautiful best friends trying to escape their dull lives through dubious means.
Premise In Adore, Lil and Roz (played by Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, respectively) live in neighboring houses on a utopic island (aka Australia) with only their painfully attractive sons for company. Under the influence of the isolation, beautiful weather, and their shirtless offspring (played by Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville), both women are seduced into “dangerous liaisons” with the one another’s child. Naturally, the illicit love affairs complicate the mothers’ and the sons’ friendships, creating lots of awkward tension and angst.
Unlike the Lil and Roz, who could be easily mistaken for twins, Chicago residents Marilyn (Sienna Miller) and Mona (Golshifteh Farahani) have distinct appearances and lifestyles. Marilyn is a typical blonde, bored, put-upon housewife; Mona is an immigrant from Algeria who is stuck in a traditional and possibly loveless marriage. Marilyn and Mona are brought together by their mutual desire to seek something more in life, which they do by entering a belly dancing competition in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their newfound dancing careers serve as a type of spiritual awakening, a cathartic release from the stresses of reality. As much fun as amateur belly dancing sounds, we’ll take the 20-something shirtless Australians.Advantage: Adore
Crossing the LineMarilyn and Mona shimmy out of their conservative work attire for skimpy, beaded belly dancer ensemble. Clad in only a decorative bra and long, silk skirt, they perform for their all male audience, seducing them with each of pop of a hip. While this will probably dismay Mona’s overbearing mother-in-law and Marilyn’s cheating husband, it does not hold a candle up to the risqué relationships between the mothers and sons of Adore. The middle-aged woman, teenaged man taboo is amplified by the fact that the mothers and the sons appear strangely similar, which gives the couples a pseudo-Oedipal quality.Advantage: Adore
Isolated SettingThere’s a reason English novelist Doris Lessing, who wrote the novella upon which Adore is based, told director Anne Fontaine that “the real story takes place in Australia.” The crystal-clear waters, sandy beaches, and lack of husbands or nosy neighbors leave Roz, Lil, and their sons free to transgress. We have a feeling this wouldn’t be quite so easy—or so tempting—in the city. Indeed, in Just Like a Woman, the two friends shake off the shackles of bustling city-life and head to the sandy plains of New Mexico. At the end of the trailer, they are shown sitting next to a random water source in the desert. This would be quite beautiful if it didn’t remind us so much of The Hills Have Eyes.Advantage: Adore
Seductive Leading LadiesIt’s difficult to say which film has the most seductive protagonists. Blonde, toned, and sun-kissed, the Australian moms of Adore would beat Mrs. Robinson any day. Their age only intensifies their appeal. Marilyn and Mona are hardly plain Janes; Marilyn (Sienna Miller) could easily be mistaken as a triplet to the women in Adore, and Mona radiates with exotic and mysterious beauty. They’re also both pretty good dancers. The women in Adore literally seduce two teenage boys, though. It’s a wash. Advantage: Tie
Directors à la FrançaisCoincidentally, Adore and Just Like a Woman are both filmed by French directors. Anne Fontaine, the director of Adore, has a loaded directorial resume, but is probably most famous in the US for Coco Before Chanel, which she wrote and directed. Adore is Fontaine’s first film with English-speaking protagonists. Like Adore, Just Like a Woman is Rachid Bouchareb’s first film based in an English speaking-country. Bouchareb is also internationally acclaimed, and his film Hors-la-loi was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards. This might be slightly narrow-minded of us, but we’re going to go with the Oscar nominee.Advantage: Just Like a Woman
VerdictWhile both films attempt to satisfy the fantasies of escapism, Adore clearly takes the cake. The provocative plot line might be uncomfortable, but in a very gripping way. The characters are so attractive and passionate; it makes the viewer question if it actually is wrong. Just Like a Woman, on the other hand, appears doomed for box office failure. The plot is random and the title tired. Winner: Adore
Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.