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Review: 'Adam' Starring Hugh Dancy And Rose Byrne

July 29th, 2009 1:29pm EDT
AdamIt's interesting, on the surface, that Fox Searchlight has released two films within two weeks of each other -- "(500) Days of Summer" and, now, "Adam" -- with the similar theme of "boy meets girl." Again, perhaps, on the surface. In reality, these films could not be more different. While "(500) Days of Summer" tugs at the emotions that everyone has felt at some point, "Adam" shows us what it's like to observe a relationship where one party does not quite even understand human emotion.

Adam (played by a pretty fantastic Hugh Dancy) has Asperger's Syndrome. A condition that's a form of Autism that leaves him quite brilliant but unable to comprehend other peoples' emotions and it also leaves him prone to a combustible form of confusion and anger when he gets frustrated -- writer and director Max Mayer conceived the story after hearing a story about a man living with Asperger's on the radio.

The film begins with Adam, who had just returned from the funeral for his father -- a father he lived with in a rather large Manhattan townhouse. Now, that home is empty and Adam is alone -- save his friendship with Harlan ("The Wire"'s Frankie Faison). Soon, Beth (Rose Byrne) moves into Adam's building and a friendship soon forms. Beth becomes ever more fascinated with Adam's charm but continues to be skeptical that a relationship is possible considering his condition.

Adam

Image © Fox Searchlight



Outside forces do intervene. Rose's father Marty (Peter Gallagher) is indicted at his financial firm which threatens to tear her family apart. Adam's innocence and inability to lie, or even understand the concept of why someone would lie, is in sharp contrast to her father. Though a charming couple, this is certainly not a perfect match. Adam doesn't even feel socially comfortable at restaurants, let alone meeting Beth's parents. Finally, Beth stages a "chance" meeting between Adam and her parents at an Off-Broadway play. This leads to a rather disturbing -- and what Beth believed to be potentially violent -- scene a few days later when it's reveled that Beth "lied" to Adam so he and her parents would meet.

The acting in "Adam" is top notch. Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne are believable in what is, really, a pretty awkward relationship. It would have almost been nice, though, to have Adam's father around for a few scenes at the beginning of the film. (A beginning of the film that, at the time, seemed like the most avant-garde film produced this year until it was realized, five minutes in, that the aspect-ratio at the screening was wrong; causing everyone and everything to appear freakishly thin.) To see what that relationship was like and to have a character able to explain Adam's condition instead of Adam having to do it himself, which seemed, at times, for the audience's benefit and not necessarily another character. But it is to this film's advantage that a story involving a character devoid of so much emotion, can yet, still, project so much.

Grade: B+

Watch "Adam - Exclusive Interview With Hugh Dancy"




Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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