It’s the end of summer and the movies are meh, but PEOPLE’s critic says you can still learn something from Winnie Mandela, get your aggression out with Riddick, and indulge in a guilty pleasure with Adore.
Adore solves one of the greatest mysteries in the history of North American popular culture: What happened after Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg sexed up each other’s fake moms in the “Mother Lover” sketch on Saturday Night Live? Was there regret? Mortification? Or did they just carry on and decide to be French about it?
Of course, it all sounds outlandish – I won’t suggest that it isn’t – but this controversial drama about best friends Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright), who take up with each other’s strapping sons, handles those questions seriously and sensitively.
The ménage a quatre is actually even more problematic than it first seems. Lil and Roz not only grow up together in a gorgeous coastal village somewhere in Australia, they watch each other’s sons grow up too, forming a merry clan of beautiful people who swim and surf, play cards and drink well into the night. Mitigating some of the sin is that all four seem to fall as much in love with their tightly confined little world as they do with each other.
Still, the movie never flinches from the complexities of their situation. Roz is married as she begins her affair with Lil’s sensitive son, Ian (Xavier Samuel), while Tom (James Frecheville) seems to pursue widowed Lil in part to strike out at his mother and his best friend. Plus, it quickly dawns on the women that if they’re to be the young men’s lovers, neither will ever have grandchildren. Is good sex really worth that? What if the relationships are more than just sex?
Not that Adore is all about weighing heavy questions about the nature of the parent/child relationship and what it means to let go. The movie is, after all, a guilty pleasure, what with its ridiculously hot stars getting it on just enough to qualify the film as racy. Watts and Wright are terrific (and Lord, do they look it), while the guys convincingly straddle the line between conflicted boys and sexually confident men. I say go, and let a giggle out. Whether you take your mom is entirely up to you.
Skip this – unless you really miss Riddick
Vin Diesel returns as his chest-beating outlaw Riddick, stranded on a sun-scorched planet in this third installment of the Pitch Black franchise. Hoping to get off the blistered rock, he hatches a plan to lure bounty hunters so he can steal a ship. With luck he attracts two crews, one led by crusty showboat Santana (Jordi Molié), the other by the crisply professional Johns (Matt Nable). If the name Johns sounds familiar to you, then congrats, you are this film’s target audience, as Riddick faces his past while trying to carve out a future – sometimes in the flesh of the mercenaries who want his head in a box. If you’re somehow not into watching people get torn apart by man and beast (it wouldn’t be a Riddick film without a few unholy alien monsters), then you might want to move along.
But see this one for Jennifer Hudson’s performance
The Mandela name is much in the news, as former South African president Nelson Mandela soldiers on in frail health. Now would be a great time to learn more about his former wife, Winnie (Hudson), who carried on his struggle to end Apartheid (at times using wildly questionable methods) while her husband was imprisoned for 27 years. It’s just too bad that this biopic barely skims the surface of Winnie’s own life, as it too often shifts the action and the agency to the men around her. Still, Hudson gives a strong performance, particularly given how little she has to work with, from Winnie’s wide-eyed youth to her years as a radical. She’s especially compelling during Winnie’s own stint in prison, much of which was spent in solitary confinement, with the film showing her keeping bugs for company. Hudson may not necessarily be in Oscar contention as Winnie, but she’s a riveting presence nonetheless.