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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adoration

Posted on Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 4:00 AM

**1/2
Critic's Pick Adoration
Director: Atom Egoyan
Screenwriter: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Arsinée Khanjian, Rachel Blanchard, Scott Speedman, Devon Bostick
Release Date: 2009-07-22
Rated: R
Genre: Film
Our Rating: 2.50

If myths derive from ordinary lives (Zeus, Vishnu, and La Llorona exaggerate qualities each of us possesses), it is also true that everyone mythologizes his or her own life, imagining him- or herself the hero of an excellent adventure. Simon (Bostick), a Toronto high-school student, lost his parents when their car collided with a truck. However, when Sabine (Khanjian), his French teacher, dictates a news item about an Arab terrorist who planted a bomb in the suitcase of his pregnant lover before she flew off to Israel, Simon appropriates it as a way to explain his own orphan state. With Sabine's encouragement, he adapts the facts to a first-person account in which the terrorist was his father and his plot was foiled in time to save 400 passengers, including Simon's mother and the fetus she was carrying, Simon himself. The teenager recites his story to his classmates as if it were the truth, and it spreads from them to their parents to strangers, creating what Simon calls a "community of people who remember a catastrophe that never happened."

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan interweaves flashbacks and imaginary scenes in a complex structure that forces a viewer to ruminate rather than merely spectate. Simon is inseparable from his cellphone camera and his laptop, making Adoration a maze of electronic images that proliferate and collide in video sequences and Internet chat rooms. Can one love a homicidal father? Does a worthy cause justify slaughter? What other questions can be recruited to lend credence to an incredible concatenation of events?

Devoid of its technological dazzle, though, Egoyan's film is a stale polemic. Though it dares try to be inventive, the effort only underscores the distinction between invention and contrivance. After his parents died, Simon was raised by his mother's brother, Tom (Speedman), who thinks of himself as a levelheaded guy and makes his living towing cars. Tom has no truck with the film's elaborate fabrications (even a stranger in an impossibly ornate burqa shows up on his doorstep). One does not have to be a philistine to sympathize when Tom tells Simon: "I don't like this pretending stuff."

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