SIFF Review: Adam

2009 SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE!
Rated PG-13
95 minutes
Olympus Pictures

**

I first became aware of Aspergers, a high functioning form of autism, when a contestant on America’s Next Top Model announced she was suffering from it. It was pretty fascinating watching a lanky, pale, and extremely awkward girl attempt to navigate the ridiculous “challenges” that Tyra threw at her and to try and fit in with the other girls. She blamed her Aspergers for nearly every failure, explaining that it hindered her from understanding normal social interaction. Of course, the conditions of ANTM are hardly “normal.”

I longed to see what it was like for an Aspergers sufferer in a more realistic setting. That why I was really excited to see “Adam,” a film about a young man with Aspergers who falls in love with his neighbor. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I find nearly every film about mentally challenged characters excruciating to watch. I’m embarrassed for the actors in their Oscar Bait roles. I’m embarrassed for everyone in the theatre laughing and awing at the “retards say the darndest things” moments. And I’m embarrassed for myself for choosing to spend 90 or so minutes with these people. None of these movies ever come close to accurately depicting what it’s like to live with mental challenges.

While it’s not quite “The Other Sister,” “Adam” is no exception. People with Aspergers can’t comprehend sarcasm, jokes, or behavioral nuances. Adam takes everything literally, which of course results in numerous instances of wacky misunderstanding, dramatic outbursts, and people learning shit about each other and themselves.

When Beth moves into Adam’s New York apartment building, she is immediately drawn to him because he’s cute, like an Aspercrombie and Fitch model. Having just been dumped, Beth is vulnerable and desperate and, mistaking his condition for eccentricity, makes her interest known. He is likewise quite lonely, having just lost his father. They embark on an unlikely courtship involving makeshift planetariums and midnight raccoon watching in Central Park.

Challenges arise when Adam loses his job as an Electronics Engineer and Beth’s father (Peter Gallagher and his delightful eyebrows) is criminally charged with corporate nepotism. Beth must teach Adam how to interview for a new job and come to terms with her father’s potential guilt. She must also deal with her father’s (perfectly natural) disapproval of her relationship with Adam.

The drama is balanced with comic relief from the aforementioned misunderstandings, as well as Adam’s interaction with his obligatory friend of normal intelligence, a sassy construction worker. The parallels were already quite apparent, but I knew I completely hated this movie when writer/director Max Mayer directly references the most insulting of the half-retard movies. Beth offers Adam some chocolate and he refuses, saying, “I’m not Forrest Gump.” This groaner is delivered in such a smug manner that I wouldn’t be surprised if they had based the entire script around that line. If you trade stars for shrimp, “Adam” is actually pretty close to Gump. And that’s why the Hallmark crowd will eat it up. But as for me, I’m not buying it.

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

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