Adam (2009) dir. Max Mayer
Starring: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher
By Alan Bacchus
A lovable, shy engineering geek with Asperger's Syndrome falls in love with the cute primary school teacher neighbour sounds either like an episode of a bad '80s family sitcom or the perfect recipe for a whimsical indie feature comedy romance. Adam gives hope that any old nerd, even if he has the super-obsessive, anti-social psychoses of Asperger's, can score one of the hottest women on the planet (Rose Byrne) just by being quirky, nerdy, shy and a little bit cute.
This is the stuff of whimsical escapist fantasy comedies like As 'Good As It Gets', or the films of Alexander Payne. Despite whatever intentions of the filmmakers, the movie unfortunately overly sentimentalizes Adam and his disorder, pitying him for the loss of his job, his inability to cope as a parentless, single bachelor living on his own and his inability to escape the entrapment of his obsessive, repetitive neuroses.
But the best romances put as many obstacles as humanly possible in between its characters before they can fall in love, and certainly these difficulties are more than enough for a good romantic film. But once Beth enters Adam's life, its easy street and he doesn't have to do much to score. Beth is like an angel appearing out of nowhere, her curiosity with Adam developing so quickly into interest, love then sex, we are cheated of the fundamental struggle to connect.
Peter Gallagher, entering the picture midway, playing Beth's doubting father and an ethically challenged corporate criminal, provides the main source of conflict. His disapproval of Adam runs a predictable course, but considering Beth is clearly in her 30s and self-sufficient, his threats to Adam and Beth's love are largely empty. The biggest threat to bliss ― the Asperger's ― eventually rears its head in the third act, which sends the film onto a different path then expected. But no one is challenged or pushed too hard in any effort to produce any memorable or profound life-altering meaning, only mild dollops of soft comedy.
The DVD features a humdrum selection of extra goodies, including audio commentary by Max Mayer and producer Leslie Undang. An engineered interview session between Rose Byrne and three film school students is horribly manufactured, resulting in the same repetitive, dimwit, canned questions you'd expect from Entertainment Tonight reporters. The deleted scenes are as usual, boring and forgettable, and the "making of" featurette is standard press kit material.
This review first appeared on Exclaim.ca