Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: "Adam" Looks at Lifestyles of the Honest and Awkward

In a new movie, "Adam," the title character, a quirky loner played by the reliably adorable actor Hugh Dancy, turns his living room into an impromptu planetarium to entertain his attractive but romantically wary neighbor, Beth. Soon he is taking her to Central Park to witness raccoons frolicking in the moonlight, and we are comfortably launched on that predictable cinematic journey wherein the charming oddball woos the beautiful girl.
Predictable, that is, until a few scenes later, when Adam inappropriately announces his own sexual arousal and then confesses to Beth that he suffers from Asperger's Syndrome.
Asperger's is characterized, among other things, by awkwardness in social situations and an inability to read others' body language and social cues. And yet, in "Adam," much of the leading man's appeal comes from his refreshing, albeit sometimes brutal, honesty. For Beth, whose experience with men has thus far been negative, the contrast between the awkward, earnest Adam and her suave but dishonest ex-boyfriend turns Adam's supposed deficiencies into strengths, at least for a time. Despite a compellingly sympathetic portrayal by Mr. Dancy, the movie eventually adopts a heavily didactic tone, launching Adam into the more banal role of the misfit who teaches "normal" people something about life.
Whatever the deficiencies of the film, its release cements a new awareness of Asperger's Syndrome in popular culture.

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