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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Adam (review)

Perhaps it’s a little bit of victory, in an odd way, that this too-earnest, underemotional drama so perfectly apes its protagonist in how it cannot quite connect with anyone outside itself. Adam (Hugh Dancy: The Jane Austen Book Club) is a 20something engineer in New York City who finds himself newly adrift after the death of his father, with whom he lived and with whom — we assume — he had his only meaningful human connection. You see, Adam suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, though his Asperger’s seems on the more severe end of its own scale. (You probably know someone with Asperger’s, particularly if you know a lot of science fiction geeks, like I do: they often don’t understand body language or emotional cues, which can make being with them a little trying at times.) “I get kind of overloaded,” Adam explains to his new neighbor, Beth (Rose Bryne: Knowing), which makes him appear to shut down, and indeed, he’s a little robotic in his clumsy attempts to befriend her, and then, even more so later, when she overcomes her resistance to his oddness to see his very real, if unusual charms, and they embark on a tentative romance. I don’t mean that “robotic” as an indictment of Dancy’s performance, which is anything but — in fact, both he and Byrne are what make this a movie worth seeing, for their delicacy and tentativeness in coping with one another. The second feature film from writer/director Max Mayer, Adam is a tad heavyhanded in spots — one awkward moment descends into such movie-of-the-week-ness that I cringed at the inelegance of it. But as a drama, it’s never easy or simplistic or comforting: even a “happy ending” for these two would never be a happy ending. And as a romance, it strips away all fantasy: if a gal’s dream guy is someone who can read her mind and always knows what she wants and needs, Adam is as emphatically the opposite of that as a man can get. Adam makes no bones about that.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for thematic material, sexual content and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • And as a romance, it strips away all fantasy: if a gal’s dream guy is someone who can read her mind and always knows what she wants and needs, Adam is as emphatically the opposite of that as a man can get. Adam makes no bones about that.

    As I recall, author Stephen King once wrote a short story about a person who had the opposite of the title character’s problem. He had the power to know exactly what his potential love interest wanted but that didn’t make him a good person. And eventually his would-be girlfriend caught on to that.

    Anyway, I saw this movie tonight. And yes, there is a scene in it where it threatens to turn into a bad Lifetime movie–or worse yet, a bad remake of Happy-Go-Lucky. Then again, we could be thinking of two different scenes.

    That said…

    I was surprised to admit I liked it. After seeing the rather cartoonish way Asperger’s syndrome was depicted on Boston Legal–the show initially showed its sufferer in a sympathetic light and then gradually began more and more to play his affliction for laughs–I found this movie to be a bit of fresh air.

    The ending was disappointing but at least it was more believable than a more audience-pleasing finale would have been.

    I must confess that for the longest time I could not help seeing this movie as just one long variation on the old joke among how all women pick up on things instinctively and all men have to have stuff explained to them. After all, we’ve all seen bad sitcoms in which that same joke is repeated over and over again. And the movie was at its best when it stayed away from that territory.

    I wouldn’t go out and buy it on DVD right now–even if I won the lottery. But I wouldn’t mind renting it from the library again and watching it with a friend.

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