Saturday, January 9, 2010

DVD Pick--ADAM: Hugh Dancy & cast light up Max Mayer's Asperger syndrome movie

Much, much better than any disease-of-the-
month TV or movie offering, ADAM -- which made its DVDebut this past week -- is a re-
markable film in a num-
ber of ways, primarily via the memorable performance from Hugh Dancy in the title role.

Adam, the character, suffers from Asperger's syndrome, one of the disorders on a rather wide autism spectrum. Having known over the years a couple of people whom I believe to be victims of this odd disability, it seems to me that Asperger's itself involves a fairly wide spectrum of behavior, from that which is mild, though noticeable, to the more severe variety that can make social adjustment and independent living difficult.

Written with clarity and specificity and then directed for spontaneity by relative newcomer Max Mayer (shown at right), the movie concentrates on Adam, his trouble with what we might term normal interaction and his growing need to master this, as a relationship begins to develop between him and Beth, a young woman who has just moved into the same New York City apartment building. As the film opens, Adam has lost his father/caregiver & so the road ahead seems particularly fraught.

Because Adam is played by Mr. Dancy (shown ar right, above and below, and at bottom) and Beth by Rose Byrne (at left, above and below) -- two relatively young and highly photogenic actors -- viewers will immediately know they are in "narrative movie" territory rather than the documentary format. Both performers are highly capable, however, and here play down their looks to stress instead honest and varied behavior. Dancy, a slight actor with a particularly beatific face and expressive wide eyes, is so on-target in his moment-to-moment moves from repetitive behavior to the sudden awareness of same, followed by the inability of knowing how to combat this that watching him is a revelation and a treat. His beauty of countenance makes the task easier, and it is quite obvious why Beth is attracted to his visage, as well as to his vulnerability and need. I have not heard much talk of Dancy garnering a best actor nomination, but his work here certainly deserves a nod.

For her part, Ms Byrne is as good as I have ever seen her: always quick and smart but with those in-between moments in which you can see how undecided, even afraid, she is. In the very fine sup-
porting cast are Peter Gallagher (shown below) as Beth's protec-
tive father and Amy Irving as her mom. It's wonderful to see both of these actors working, even in small roles, at their peak -- and in a good film, to boot. Frankie Faison, too, brings great strength and decency to his role as the building super and Adam's friend.

Viewers may find themselves buffeted by the events, hoping against hope for an outcome perhaps "happier" than it is real. How Mr. Mayer, his cast and crew, wrap the story up is splendid indeed, like a taste of chocolate you've been craving that turns out to be dark, rich -- and quite bittersweet.

Adam, released via Fox Searchlight, received a very wide release (for an independent film), and so should be available for sale or rent at most walk-in video outlets and, of course, from those online.

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