Flawed moralizing leaves little room for 'Adoration'

Atom Egoyan seems to think we're living in a time where everyone, young and old, knows how to operate a Web cam. (Seriously, do you know more than five people who know how to use one?)

That's just one of the few things that make "Adoration," his latest film, such a distant, disconnected experience. But would you expect anything else from Egoyan, one of the most distant, disconnected filmmakers around? The man directs movies as though he's intruding on everybody's affairs!

A half-Lebanese high-schooler named Simon (Devon Bostick) spends his nights locked in a continual chat online with his classmates, his laptop screen filled with boxes of yapping, talking heads, looking like a version of "Hollywood Squares" powered by Stickam.

The latest discussion topic is the rather erudite story Simon wrote in his French class about his Lebanese father (Noam Jenkins) planting a bomb in the luggage of his unknowing, plane-bound wife (Rachel Blanchard), who was also carrying the future online chat master in her womb.

This story brings many people to the interactive table: high-school friends, Holocaust survivors, neo-Nazis, even people who say the incident has ruined their lives.

The problem is that it didn't happen.

The story is a work of fiction cooked up by Simon and his teacher (Arsinée Khanjian, Egoyan's wife), a woman who has her own reasons for encouraging Simon to continue with this lie.

Because Simon has been told by his late grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) that his father is the reason that Simon's father and mother died in a car crash when Simon was a kid, he seems all too willing to comply.

What's in a name?

"Adoration" appears to be an ironic, off-kilter title for this movie; nearly every character is either too frustrated, too angry or just too socially awkward to actually show affection toward anyone. (The whole online-community angle further solidifies the irony; people are so isolated, they can't even talk to each other in person.)

Egoyan once again uses his nonlinear, jigsaw-puzzle style of filmmaking, bouncing back-and-forth in time, keeping everything in superficial disarray until all the pieces are put together in the third act.

But the button-pushing, red herring of a first half doesn't appear as fascinating as the family storyline at the movie's core.

Although, if you get a kick watching someone play a bunch of people like lab rats (just in case you don't get that, Egoyan adds a scene where the kid literally plays with his pet rat during a mass convo) and you've already seen "Bruno," then, by all means, grab a ticket!

It's almost as if Egoyan wasn't confident enough with the family story, which also involves Simon's uncle and guardian (an impressive Scott Speedman), a tightly wound, tow-truck man who's haunted by his sister's death. So he also threw in the bigotry-and-ignorance-in-the-Internet-age to give his story more heft.

But "Adoration" is a movie that wouldn't have existed if one character was upfront with that person's actions. When the actions are revealed, it makes the whole movie seem irrelevant, not to mention implausible.

Indeed, "Adoration" is a pseudo-commentary on the social ugliness that arises when the issue of terrorism comes into play, whether it's on the web or right around your dinner table.

But the movie comes across as a padded parable, its moral practically muffled around overinflated, aggrandizing storytelling.

In the end, reminding people how stupid they can be has never been more monotonous.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer