Friday, August 21, 2009

A romance with a difference

We sometimes need reminding that people with diseases or disorders are people -- not diseases or disorders.

The movie Adam does a nice job of humanizing a character that easily could have served as little more than an emblem for disability. The movie's main character suffers from Asperger Syndrome, a developmental disorder that evidently manifests in a variety of ways. In Adam's case, Asperger's creates a shockingly literal mindset. On top of that, Adam's behavior always seems a tick or two off the mark.

Adam, also happens to be an electronics whiz with an interest in astronomy. Although he's capable of falling into uncontrolled bouts of rage, he's keenly focused and exceptionally honest. Did I mention that Adam is a romance? Well, it is. The story centers on the relationship that develops between Adam (Hugh Darcy) and Beth (Rose Byrne). Darcy's English; Byrne's Australian. Both play Americans who live in Manhattan. Adam and Beth meet when Beth moves into Adam's apartment building. She slowly develops a fondness for Adam that eventually blossoms into romance.

Both Darcy and Byrne acquit themselves well. Darcy gives Adam a credible degree of self-awareness, and Byrne proves convincing as a young woman trying to figure out just how far her relationship with Adam can go.

The script by Max Mayer, who also directed, doesn't delve deeply enough into Beth's psychology, dabbling instead in issues of honesty revolving around Beth's CPA father (Peter Gallagher). Issues aside, the real accomplishment of Mayer's script involves the way it eases gentle humor into most of the problems Adam and Beth face.

Predictable moments keep Adam from soaring, but the ending helps Mayer avoid the worst genre cliches. In all, Adam comes off as a quiet crowd pleaser; it may not be great, but it gets further than you might expect considering the pitfalls movies dealing with disorders inevitably face.

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