Published May 07, 2009Adoration bears all the telltale traces of an Egoyan film. Strained familial relationships, the technological mediation of memory and armchair Islam-ophobia are all entwined in another overwrought network narrative about a high schooler named Simon (Devon Bostick) who under the tutelage of his French teacher (Arsinée Khanjian), weaves an elaborate yarn about his deceased parents' role in a failed airplane bombing.
The idea here, as with most of what Egoyan has done since Calendar (1993), is that the narration of both history and memory demands contestation. To this end, Adoration imagines the Internet as a bunch of talking heads babbling over each other, all to Simon's distracted attention - imagine the opening credits to The Brady Bunch as interpreted by Robert Altman. That the 'net doesn't really work like this is beside the point, since in Adoration it's not the digitized public sphere but the private conversation that proves productive. Simon's uncle and guardian, Tom (Scott Speedman), only comes to face his own xenophobic and domestic demons when sharing a sandwich with Khanjian's Sabine and likewise, Simon only learns to accept the consequences of his feinted storytelling following an earnest, paternal conversation with his uncle.
This tendency towards the dialogic mars Adoration. Why bother addressing the ideological gulfs existing between a community of outsiders if they can only be surmounted through a tête-à-tête with some distantly connected stranger? Sure, the relatively anonymous participants of an Internet chat room can ask all the pressing questions but the answers can only arise in dialogue with your brother-in-law's neighbour's barber.
Certainly, Adoration is as taut as anything Egoyan has cobbled together. But we've come to expect flashes of genius in his work, not just studied workmanship. And while the astutely disaffected viewer may smirk at seeing the filmmaker's chilly melancholia dovetailing with music supplied by veteran Montreal glum rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, even this choice seems by the numbers.
Adoration confirms that Egoyan, like so many artists who have in one way or another succumbed to the seductive aesthetics of the post-modern, seems now unable to do little more than rehearse his own stylistic and narratological cleverness. (E1)