- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

“Adam,” the new romantic dramedy from writer-director Max Mayer, manages to be funny and meaningful at the same time.

Adam Raki (Hugh Dancy) appears at first as simply quirky; standoffish and awkward around other people, he seems lost in the world after the passing of his father. When his new neighbor, Beth Buchwald (Rose Byrne), tries to connect with him, he shies away.

It’s more than shyness, actually; it’s full-on social ineptitude. When Beth struggles up the stairs of their apartment building with her hands full of groceries, Adam doesn’t even seem to notice. It’s not rudeness so much as blindness. As the movie progresses, we pick up on more of his idiosyncrasies — his obsession with the night sky, his failure to look people in the eye — and the audience realizes that something is not quite right with Adam.

It’s not just a quirky character design as you so often see in indie comedies; rather, Adam suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, an autism-spectrum disorder that makes relating to other people extremely difficult. As he and Beth draw closer together, she draws him out of his shell and into the rest of the world.

Beth needs Adam just as much as he needs her. As Adam’s life is coming together in the form of a new job, her life is falling apart in the form of her father’s (Peter Gallagher) trial for fraud. Mr. Mayer intercuts scenes of Adam’s maturation with scenes of the Buchwald family’s disintegration to show the audience just how important support groups are during trying times.

Mr. Dancy’s turn as the titular character strikes just the right balance by displaying the Asperger’s symptoms without making a huge show of them. This isn’t an over-the-top performance, and the few times he really lets loose — as he does in a surprising moment of rage at Beth — the effect is intense. Miss Byrne, meanwhile, charms as the single daughter reconciling her anger at her father with her love for her family.

The supporting performances by Mr. Gallagher and Frankie Faison (as Adam’s only real friend) are welcome treats; it’s always nice to see talented actors turn up in smaller pictures and strut their stuff from time to time.

By avoiding the romantic-comedy cliches of lesser fare like “The Proposal” and “The Ugly Truth,” Mr. Mayer has given us characters to care about instead of laugh at and dispose of.

★★★

TITLE: “Adam”

RATING: PG-13 (thematic material, sexual content and language)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Max Mayer

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes

WEB SITE: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/adam/

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