Dancy, Byrne bring the charm to ‘Adam’

> Di­rec­tor’s deft touch keeps view­ers root­ing for th­ese young lovers

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By John Bei­fuss

bei­fuss@com­mer­cialap­peal.com

Win­some New York school­teacher falls for so­cially in­ept but cute guy with a de­vel­op­men­tal dis­or­der known as Asperger’s syn­drome.

That’s a premise to make one shud­der, be­cause even movies with honor­able in­ten­tions have a ten­dency to treat “men­tally chal­lenged” in­di­vid­u­als with con­de­scen­sion. But “Adam” pretty much avoids the pit­falls of taste­less­ness and sen­ti­men­tal­iza­tion that could have re­sulted in “For­rest Gump Falls in Love.” In­stead, writer-di­rec­tor Max Mayer has pro­duced a fairly charm­ing ro­mance with an un­pre­dictable end­ing. (Does the non-rous­ing con­clu­sion ex­plain why “Adam”— a movie that should ap­peal to the young movie­go­ers who have made “(500) Days of Sum­mer” a hit — is open­ing in Mem­phis only at the Malco Ridge­way Four, as if it were a lim­ited-ap­peal “art” film?)

Mayer — who has di­rected only one pre­vi­ous fea­ture, “Bet­ter Liv­ing,” a for­got­ten 1998 dys­func­tional-fam­ily com­edy with Olympia Dukakis — is helped im­mea­sur­ably by his leads. Pre­vi­ously pre­sented as a ro­man­tic hero in “Con­fes­sions of a Shopa­holic,” Hugh Dancy is Adam, a toy-com­pany com­puter wizard with a fas­ci­na­tion for as­tron­omy. (“There are new im­ages of Saturn from the Cassini Project,” is a typ­i­cal Adam re­join­der.) Rose Byrne is new neigh­bor Beth, an “NT”— “neuro -typ­i­cal”— who is puz­zled by Adam’s odd­ness and so­cial in­ep­ti­tude un­til she learns he has a form of “high-func­tion­ing autism” known as Asperger’s syn­drome.

Al­though there are some un­likely “cute” mo­ments (Adam dons an as­tro­naut’s uni­form to dan­gle out­side Beth’s win­dow), Adam and Beth are re­mark­ably nice, lik­able char­ac­ters, played by Dancy and Byrne without the tics and self-con­scious­ness that more pre­ten­tious or per­haps less se­cure per­form­ers might have brought to the roles. Dancy and Byrne seem to be be­hav­ing , not act­ing. The viewer never stops root­ing for th­ese young lovers, even when the film drags dur­ing its fi­nal act.

An­other plus: 65 min­utes pass be­fore the first mood-es­tab­lish­ing pop song is heard on the sound­track. Such rare (for 2009) re­straint is in­dica­tive of Mayer’s del­i­cate ap­proach.

Ju­lia Griner Fox Seach­light

Beth (Rose Byrne) and Adam (Hugh Dancy) are a thor­oughly charm­ing cou­ple in “Adam,” which is at the Malco Ridge­way Four.

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