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Film Review - Adam

ADAM hugh dancy rose byrne

I’m positive there’s a finer way to showcase the nuances of Asperger’s Syndrome than anything the new film “Adam” manages to come up with. While respectful to the disorder, the picture is nonetheless disinterested in anything that would enliven the experience beyond the severely clichéd or overacted. It’s a gentle romantic dramedy, but misfires at every turn, making for a tedious motion picture that minimizes a fascinating subject.

Beth Buchwald (Rose Byrne) has moved into a New York City apartment building, soon meeting a quiet man named Adam (Hugh Dancy) who piques her curiosity. As the two make tentative romantic moves toward each other, Beth learns of Adam’s battle with Asperger’s Syndrome, which keeps him socially distant, yet emotionally blunt. Finding Adam tiring, but utterly sweet, Beth embarks on a relationship with the fragile man, hoping for the strength to deal with his multitude of problems. With her father (Peter Gallagher) facing legal troubles and Adam crumbling after losing his father and job within a short time span, Beth comes to realize that while kind, Adam’s mania might be too much for her to deal with.

“Adam” aims to be sweet, treating the sensitive subject of Asperger’s Syndrome with kid gloves so as not to offend anyone gracious enough to spend time with the film. It’s a valid attempt on writer/director Max Mayer’s part to convey the psychological toll of the disorder, and how its frenzy and tireless insistence can cause great distress. However, his method of approach is in the guise of a romantic comedy, scripting a relationship story for Beth and Adam as they not only play the game of love, but one of patience.

To watch “Adam” reach out and attempt to engage the audience through overtly expressive characters and personal tragedies is interesting for the first 15 minutes. Inventing a hermetically sealed world of order for Adam, only to be sliced open by Beth’s fixation, creates a plausible tension within the script. The mystery doesn’t last for long. “Adam” quickly goes from a quirky jaunt to a get-me-outta-here disaster by the second act, where Mayer hunts for a way to bond these characters together, yet has little interest in challenging the story beyond Lifetime Channel dramatic developments. There’s a wellspring of depth in the Beth character, who pretty much uses Adam to fill her own selfish emotional void -- she invents love to keep huffing the fumes of newfound attraction. Yet Mayer doesn’t go within striking distance of the conflict, instead pushing his cast to vibrate wildly for Oscar gold, or keep Byrne glassy-eyed for maximum sympathy.

Adding to the disinterest are Byrne and Dancy, who spend most of the film trying to swallow their natural accents to portray a pair of average Americans. The suppression only causes their acting to grow unwieldy and unnatural, or even downright embarrassing in the case of Dancy and his opportunity to convey the explosive capacity of Asperger’s. It doesn’t take long for “Adam” to start reaching out for hugs in a sickly, cloying manner that almost reduces Asperger’s to a nagging inconsideration instead of a three-dimensional affliction with real consequences, not just melodramatic highs and lows to suit an unbearable script.


D+


ADAM

Comments

Talya

While I'm not sure the movie was quite as bad as you thought it was Brian, I agree that it was irritating. I think if you're going to tackle a subject this serious it's really important to get it right. New studies are showing as many as 1 in 100 kids maybe have an autism spectrum disorder, so we all need to understand better what it is and how to deal with it. But Adam (the character) was an amalgam of high functioning and low functioning which just didn't ring true.

If Adam was as smart as Mayer kept trying to impress upon us, he would have been smart enough to have learned masking/ compensatory behaviours. There's no way he would have asked Beth if she was sexually excited for instance - that was just played for comic effect (and it was too sad to be funny anyway). It might conceivably happen for a lower functioning Auty, but not for an Aspy - they're smart enough to watch and learn and mask important human social behaviours. Ok so they monologue, and sometimes they are less than tactful. But they know the obviously inappropriate things.

And also, what on earth would Beth have been attracted to in Adam? He was boring! He had no conversation skills and no sense of humour. Most of the Aspys I know are charming and funny, in an eccentric way (obviously I know a bunch - yes my son is an Aspy). And while they do take things a little literally sometimes, their intelligence compensates for that most of the time - they learn the meaning of common metaphors and phrases and know what they mean.

It's like the film really wanted to make a few points about what Asperger's is, and it drove home those clichés again and again: taking things literally; mind blindness; difficulty changing routine. But Aspys are not stereotypes; they are as individual as everyone else. They all manifest their Asperger's in unique ways.

By the way I thought the acting was fine, not great, not terrible. It was mostly the script I had a problem with. I give this 2/5 stars

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