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STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

MSRP: $19.98

RATED: PG-13

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Commentary by director/writer Max Mayer and producer Leslie Urdang
  • Alternate ending with commentary
  • Deleted and alternate scenes
  • Creating Adam featurette
  • Fox Movie Channel presents Life After Film School with Rose Byrne
  • Trailers

The Pitch



Boy meets girl. Boy has Asperger’s Syndrome. There’s your dash of
originality. Enjoy it.

The Humans

Written and directed by Max Mayer
Starring: Hugh
Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison, and Mark
Linn-Baker



The Nutshell



Adam Raki (Hugh Dancy) has never really learned how to get along in the
world. His father and lifelong caretaker has just died. His job is in
danger. Also he’s a bit strange. Strange enough to arouse police
suspicion when stopping by a playground to watch the kids. Clearly
there’s something “off” about the way he jitters, rambles on about
space, and seemingly refuses to make eye contact. One day he bumps into his new neighbor, a cute young woman named Beth
(Rose Byrne). Their flirtatious friendship takes a pause when Adam
admits to Beth that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, a kind of high
functioning autism. Nevertheless, Beth still finds him cute and
intriguing. Can their love survive his condition?



It was finally over. This macabre machination of murder had finally given him what he had always wanted…a free U.S. flag!



The Lowdown



I was ready to hate this movie. I remember guffawing at the trailer this
summer, and was expecting the ultimate Quirky Indie Nightmare. Adam
surprised me not just by getting me emotional involved in the
characters, but also showing me moments and ideas that I could relate
to. This might sound like faint praise but it’s a pretty big achievement
for an indie romance to win me over even that much. If only the rest of
the film were more interesting.



Disclosure: I don’t have Asperger’s syndrome. To the best of my
knowledge, I don’t have any friends with Asperger’s, nor have I ever
really had a conversation with anyone who had it. So for someone like
me, this film is the closest I’ve ever come to observing someone with
the condition. When people complain about historical or scientific
accuracy, I’m the one to say it doesn’t matter as long as it serves a
good story. I’m more sensitive to characters with real-world disorders,
but this review will not be concerned with such things.



“OK. Let’s go over exactly what went wrong with our The Astronaut’s Wife role-playing.”



I was worried that this would be yet another “magical retardo” picture,
where Adam’s condition would be considered a life-affirming blessing
rather then a real problem with consequences. Thankfully, the film
recognizes that it takes a lot of work for Adam to live in this world of
neuro-typicals (as he calls them).  There’s no message telling us that
Adam is “just fine the way he is” (which was my biggest problem with the
nails-on-a-chalkboard-made-from-my-face experience of All About
Steve
).  It’s nice to see him working to control his condition in order
to become a fully functioning, independent adult. Even if the movie is
or is not honest about Asperger’s syndrome, it’s very honest about the
consequences of Adam’s behavior.




“Beth? I really don’t think this mansion party is the right place to try and bring me out of my shell.”


Despite Adam’s very specific condition, there’s a lot in his character I
can relate to. His social anxiety might be more intense, but we can all
understand where he’s basically coming from. I’ve done my fair share of
drunken rambling, where I’ll go for 20 minutes about how much I love
The Venture Bros., or how much I hate Jay Leno, oblivious to the
indifference of my listener. And who can hear a line of dialogue like
this and not relate?



“I can see that you’re upset, but I don’t know what to do.”


With these touching moments of universal human truth, why is Adam so
hard to recommend? In short, writer and director Max Mayer lacks spark.
He doesn’t infuse the film with enough style or life for me to
wholeheartedly embrace it. The direction is a particularly missed
opportunity. Adam is not a drab character, so it’s a real shame that the
film looks so drab and lifeless. His way of seeing the world is so
unique that I wanted to see some of that uniqueness on the screen. Mayer’s
screenplay is only marginally better. The supporting characters are
bland, and even the leads aren’t given much to do beyond struggling with Adam’s condition.



“What’s wrong? All I said was I loved him in The Man Who Knew Too Little.”


It’s the cast who are doing the heavy lifting on screen. Hugh
Dancy is pretty convincing as the
off-putting yet lovable title character, while Rose Byrne is equally
believable and adorable as the woman who loves him. Peter Gallagher
never disappoints as smarmy characters, and he nails it as Beth’s
wealthy yet legally troubled father.




Adam is a
high-concept romantic drama;
nothing really makes it
special aside from the Asperger’s element. It’s a film of good ideas with a mediocre execution. The characters cry out for dialogue with distinctive voice, and the visuals
are merely serviceable. Adam is like a rock song with one or two great
lyrics. Those lyrics are great enough to write them down in a notebook
and keep forever, though you never need to hear the song itself ever
again.




After reading the storybook, Adam spent a long time on that park bench, contemplating his life,
and wondering if he could sue.



The Package



The feature commentary by writer/director Max Mayer and producer (name)
talks about the inspiration for the film and a bunch of
behind-the-scenes trivia, pretty standard stuff. They also gush over how
“magical” it was to shoot in New York, though you wouldn’t know it by
the style-impaired film itself. Creating Adam (har har) is a disposable
featurette that acts more like an extended trailer, with interview
snippets from Byrne and Dancy mixed in with A LOT of clips from the
movie you just finished watched. Life After Film School is TV show for
the Fox Movie Channel where an
established filmmaker will do an interview with current film students
about the business. This episode features actress Rose Byrne. An
alternate ending is included with or without commentary, not much
different from the regular ending. A collection of deleted and alternate
scenes completes the package. Oh, and trailers.

  6 out of 10