“I’m not Forrest Gump, you know.” So says Asperger’s syndrome sufferer Adam to girlfriend Beth, and though Max Mayer’s Adam is indeed better-intentioned and less smugly insulting than Robert Zemeckis’s gag-inducing Oscar winner, its maudlin, self-sabotaging audience-coddling is right out of the Zemeckis playbook. Lost and directionless after the death of his father, Adam (Hugh Dancy, fine but angling hard for that Academy vote) falls for new neighbor Beth (Rose Byrne, pretty as always but shrill enough to shatter glass), a children’s book author and teacher drawn to Adam’s sweetly awkward demeanor. In the real world, Asperger’s sufferers can have an exceedingly difficult time integrating into normal life, and Adam, to its credit, clearly wants to evoke this difficulty. But Mayer’s mostly lazy screenplay stacks its deck to an absurd degree—with the exception of Beth and Adam’s helpful friend Harlan (Frankie Faison, the only black man in the movie, through whom the Wise Negro stereotype once again rears its ugly head), nearly every supporting character, from Beth’s controlling white-collar-criminal father (Peter Gallagher) to Adam’s boss (Adam LeFevre), is either absurdly cruel to or dismissive of Adam. The film frequently seems too divorced from reality to make any genuine humanist statement, and Mayer too often treats Adam’s frayed social skills as a source of gentle humor. It’s not mean-spirited, really, but it does let the audience off the hook from actually having to confront how painful and embarrassing such problems can be for Asperger’s sufferers. And when Adam does take turns for the dramatic, it does so through such manipulative means—all sappy music cues and sad-eyed close-ups—that the results are usually less honest than simply overbearing.
- Fox Searchlight Pictures
- 99 min
- Max Mayer
- Max Mayer
- Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison, Mark Linn-Baker, Adam LeFevre
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