Writer/director Max Mayer's sanitized romantic comedy about Adam (Hugh Dancy), a man suffering from Asperger Syndrome, never cracks the surface of its delicate and complex subject. Rose Byrne plays Adam's new neighbor Beth Buchwald, who is slow to realize Adam's condition--perhaps because working with children in her day job as a teacher has recalibrated her emotional capacities. The recent death of Adam's father has left him to care for his Manhattan apartment alone, when he isn't developing electronic toys for a local company. The filmmaker's decision to cast an actor with classic leading man good looks in the role of Adam, telegraphs the shallow depths that Mayer goes to fleshing out the character's personality and behavioral quirks. Placed at the "upper end" of the Asperger spectrum, Adam loves all things astronomy related, and charms Beth with his knowledge of the cosmos. Beth does some cursory research about Asperger Syndrome, but is more content to pursue a romantic relationship in which she is clearly the adult figure, than realize Adam's need to be exposed to others with his condition. It's a similar line of action to the filmmaker, who speaks of going to Asperger's meetings while preparing the script but doesn't allow his character the same opportunity for support in the story. After soft-pedaling through a few socially uncomfortable scenarios for Adam and Beth, Mayer finally shows Adam in an act of uncontrollable behavior, for which people suffering from the syndrome are known. Common behaviors associated with Asperger Syndrome include self-injury, aggression, and vigorous noncompliance. "Adam" is an exploitation romantic comedy. Beth (the director's thematic voice of the story) is unwilling to take a responsible approach to addressing Adam's special needs, and the audience is supposed to play along as if everything will be alright. I suppose it is, so long as Adam can go back to being Hugh Dancy with the film is over.
(Fox Searchlight) Rated PG-13. 99 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)
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