Story of `Adam' not so captivating.
By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
The most daring thing about Adam, the story of a young man with Asperger's syndrome, is that there isn't a scene in which someone stops to explain exactly what Asperger's is. You get hints and passing descriptions -- it's an affliction, considered a form of autism by some experts, that creates great social anxiety and introversion in its sufferers -- but never an outright definition.
Instead, writer-director Max Mayer, in his filmmaking debut, chooses to show us via his eponymous lead character. Adam, an electrical engineer living alone in New York City after the death of his father, is played by the British actor Hugh Dancy, who performs the character's various tics, mannerisms and sometimes bewildering reactions with an utter lack of conceit and actorly vanity.
There are moments when you'd swear Dancy (The Jane Austen Book Club, Evening, Confessions of a Shopaholic) wasn't even aware the camera was rolling: He, like Adam, seems lost in his own world.
His performance is strong, captivating and illuminating: The rest of the movie, which tracks Adam's unexpected romance with his new neighbor Beth (Rose Byrne), is less so.
The Australian Byrne (Knowing, TV's Damages) matches Dancy in talent, but her role as a schoolteacher recovering from a bad relationship who falls for the strange and endearing Adam is so clearly designed and calculated, she might as well have been named Foil.
Their romance is sweet and hesitant and doomed, but Adam never makes you regret the time you spend in their company.
Mayer goes easy on the romantic montages, instead favoring meatier scenes such as the couple's discussion on how they're going to deal with sex (Adam wants it rightaway, and isn't shy about asking; Beth prefers to wait).
A subplot involving Beth's father (Peter Gallagher), who is having some legal troubles, is less effective, feeling like it was included just to pad out the movie's running time to feature length.
But Dancy's eye-opening performance reveals he's a bona-fide acting talent, capable of carrying a movie without ever playing to your affections. He's great; the rest of Adam is just OK.
Cast: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison, Mark Linn-Baker, HavilandMorris.
Writer-director: Max Mayer.
Producers: Miranda de Pencier, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech.
A Fox Searchlight release. Running time: 99 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes.
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Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy in a scene from Adam.Photo: Julia Griner/ Serenade Films.