By Ashley Hillard
I can appreciate what writer / director Max Mayer (directed an episode of “The West Wing” and “Alias”) was trying to do in the Fox Searchlight film ”Adam”. The title character has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism and lives alone in his huge apartment that was left to him when his father passed away. This is a rich character to explore as there are a handful of handicapped characters that are portrayed in film and many of the actors who play them go on to win Oscars, as Ben Stiller’s character in ”Tropic Thunder” thoroughly explains.
Hugh Dancy (”Confessions of a Shopaholic”) does a fairly good job with the role, but overall his performance is underwhelming. It is a similar story for his co-star, Rose Byrne (”28 Weeks Later”) who plays his love interest, Beth. Beth moves in to the apartment building where Adam lives and the two quickly form a bond after Beth invites him to a party and he shows her the solar system he has managed to create in his apartment. Just coming out of a relationship where she was cheated on, Beth is impressed by Adam’s honesty and attracted by his good looks. She investigates Asperger’s Syndrome to see if Adam could be a potential boyfriend and soon introduces him to her doting father Marty, played by Peter Gallagher (”The O.C”) and mother Rebecca, played by Amy Irving (”Traffic”). Marty, a high powered attorney, goes on trial for helping a woman that, it turns out, he had an affair with.
Distraught by the situation her father is in, Beth turns to Adam for comfort, but he is limited in his ability to be there for her. Faced with possible eviction after losing his job, Beth helps Adam navigate the job market and helps him practice for interviews. There are touching scenes as the two try to make their relationship work and help each other with their struggles, but the writing doesn’t click and the chemistry between the leads isn’t where it needs to be to save the film. At times, Beth is too doe-eyed and helpless, making her more irritating than sympathetic. Adam has comedic moments, but often those moments are too awkward to be funny.
At the core, this is a good story, one that has a unique love story and a likeable character at the center. Though there are many successful projects made by a person that has both written and directed the material, sometimes it is best to separate the two jobs. The writing is not where it needs to be in this film and the leading characters, which essentially carry the film, are undercooked. It is great to see Fox Searchlight make an interesting independent film and I hope they continue to do so, this one just happened to miss the mark.