Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Movie Review: Adam

Rated: PG-13

Website: Adam official site

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows

My Review: Adam is a very sweet and simple love story that is entertaining to watch, thanks to the talented cast, but is ultimately easily forgettable.

Adam is a socially awkward 29-year-old man with Asperger’s Syndrome, who lives alone in his Manhattan apartment after the recent death of his father. The lovely and newly single Beth moves into the apartment upstairs, and the two strike up a neighborly friendship, prompted by Beth expressing an interest in outer space and that being one of the few topics Adam is comfortable babbling on about ad naseum. Despite being a bit odd and difficult to read, Beth finds herself drawn to Adam, and when he tells her about his disorder she only briefly worries about that making him less than prime boyfriend material before they tentatively begin a romantic relationship. Their relationship progresses with many of the same roadblocks and rites of passage as any other: the meeting of the friends, the meeting of the parents, the first fight when he asks her currently on-trial father if he’s going to jail, etc. And like every other relationship, Adam and Beth ultimately have to decide if theirs is going to last for the long haul.

It’s no secret that Hugh Dancy can play cute and charming with aplomb, so it was refreshing to see him step away from the sort of fairy tale princes he usually plays and deftly portray Adam as a real man; yes, he has a disability, but he’s also a functioning adult with the same needs and desires as anyone else. It’s a Hollywood mainstay that lesser-known actors want to play disabled characters to be able to show off their range, and all too often they wind up playing them as caricatures—all twitches and impeded speech—rather than actual people. But Dancy approaches Adam and his Asperger’s deftly, making him nervous and awkward, but also smart and endearing. It would be easy to wonder what would compel someone like Beth to want to get involved with someone like Adam, knowing all the additional challenges their relationship will face, but Dancy lets you see in Adam everything that Beth does, and you hope for them to make it against all the odds.

Rose Byrne is lovely as Beth, and while at first I found it unrealistic that someone so smart and beautiful wouldn’t already be involved with some overly-coiffed Adonis, the filmmakers took care of that by having her confess that her last boyfriend cheated on her, thus making her attraction to the bizarrely sweet Adam more plausible. Amy Irving and Peter Gallagher (and his eyebrows) play Beth’s parents and only come into play in a few scenes that involve Gallagher’s character, an affluent accountant from White Plains, undergoing a trial for performing some creative accounting for an old family friend. At first accepting of his daughter’s new relationship (at least on the surface), when his legal troubles take a turn for the worst, he does an about face, creating the unnecessarily cliché, “It’s your boyfriend or your family—choose” scenario. But this gives Amy Irving the opportunity to shine briefly as she relates to Beth about the wonders of both loving and being loved.

My one complaint about Adam is that it adopts the typical non-ending that so many independent films use. The final resolution is left up in the air for the audience to decide, which some filmmakers seem to think will connect them to their audience members on a deeper level by letting them interpret the finale in the way they prefer. Personally, I find it to be lazy storytelling and think if you’re going to tell a tale, you should finish it. Otherwise, it has the same effect as me walking up to someone, crying “Knock-knock!”, then walking away. In other words, I prefer a disappointing conclusion to no conclusion at all.

Bottom Line: Adam is the very definition of a “cute movie.” It’s enjoyable to watch, encompassing all the things that most movie-goers like in a romantic film; relatable and flawed characters, a touching but not sappy story, a deviation from obvious stereotypes, and a few genuinely funny moments. But there’s nothing so amazing about Adam that will stick with you for days (or even hours) after viewing it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just is.

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