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Time Out New York Project: Issue #710, May 7-May 13, 2009
Dir. Atom Egoyan. 2008. R. 100mins. Arsinée Khanjian, Rachel Blanchard, Devon Bostick.
The roundly terrible Adoration exhibits all of Atom Egoyan’s usual stylistic quirks and thematic obsessions—those traits that mark him, for better and for worse, as a bona fide auteur. Yet what works in one Egoyan film, like the sorely underrated Ararat, does not necessarily work in others. Here, the time-jumping narrative and self-consciously somnambulant mood undermine the writer-director’s zeitgeist-inspired thesis.
Terrorism is on Egoyan’s mind, and not just the kind inflicted by Middle Eastern extremists. Simon (Bostick) is a troubled high-school student trying to make sense of the death of his father, Sami (Noam Jenkins), and mother, Rachel (Blanchard). This leads him to concoct a story—with the full sanction of his flighty French teacher (Khanjian)—about his dad being an airplane-bombing terrorist. The lie spirals out of control and several unspoken motivations come to light, but the specifics barely matter, because the director would rather sell us his increasingly stale line about the mind-warping effects of technology.
For this most technophobic of artists, terror is not only imposed but self-created, typically through the very objects we use to both inform us about and distract us from the horrors of the world. To this end, the iSight-equipped MacBook on which Simon chats with friends and strangers is as loaded a vessel of communication-cum-diversion as the antique violin played by Rachel in the film’s gauzy flashback scenes. Yet the soundtrack, slathered in overbearing, weepy strings, clues us in to which item Egoyan finally considers the pathway to redemption. His point of view has rarely been so laughably retrograde.—Keith Uhlich