Film review: Off-kilter 'Adam' keeps changing direction

Published: Friday, Aug. 28 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy star in "Adam." Dancy plays a man with Asperger syndrome.

Julia Griner

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ADAM — ★★1/2 — Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher; rated PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, brief sex, slurs, violence, brief gore, nude art); in general release

"Adam" doesn't know what the right thing is to say at any given moment.

That's as true of the film as it is of its title character, a 20-something man living with Asperger syndrome, a "high-functioning" form of autism.

The movie "Adam" keeps changing directions, adding in story elements and character quirks as a way of being "edgy."

But the plotting in this otherwise sensitive drama seems unconvincing and confusing, and the off-kilter character "notes" seem forced. A very good cast of actors gets more mileage out of this material than they probably should have.

Brit Hugh Dancy ("Confessions of a Shopaholic") stars as Adam Raki, whose father has recently passed away. That's left Adam alone and bored in a spacious Manhattan apartment.

That's just the start of a series of bad things that happen to Adam — including losing a job that he clearly loves (helping design software for high-end toys and dolls).

However, he has become obsessed with his new alluring neighbor, Beth Buchwald (Aussie Rose Byrne, from the FX television series "Damages"). Beth is a teacher and would-be children's book author who quickly becomes intrigued with her odd but interesting new acquaintance.

As you'd expect, there are a few obstacles in the path of their relationship and possible romance, not the least of which is Beth's father, Marty (Peter Gallagher). He'd rather see her with one of his fellow investment types.

A subplot about Marty's legal troubles is so reminiscent of one in the 1989 drama "Say Anything …" that the creators of this movie better hope those filmmakers don't see this one.

Worse, it bogs down a film that doesn't need any further complications or distractions.

And if anything, we'd rather learn more about Adam's would-be father figure, Harlan, played by character actor Frankie Faison. Theirs is perhaps the most interesting and most believable relationship in the movie.

"Adam" is rated PG-13 and features scattered strong language (including one usage of the so-called, "R-rated" curse word), other sexual language (vulgar slang and innuendo), some brief sexual contact and a sex scene (implied), derogatory language and slurs, a violent tantrum, a brief bloody sequence, and glimpses of nude artwork. Running time: 97 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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