Dancy, Byrne stand out in disappointing 'Adam'

Adam (PG-13)

2 1/2 stars out of 4

During this movie's non-verbal five minute opening title sequence, writer/director Max Meyer provides the audience with more information about his title character than most filmmakers can usually muster in the space of two hours. It's impressive and refreshing.

Adam (Hugh Dancy) has just buried his father. The loss doesn't upset him so much; he's more worried about how it will disrupt his daily routine. He works as an electrical engineer for a toy company and eats the same frozen food meal every night. He's also stricken with Asperger's Syndrome, a milder variation of autism.

Once Meyer's name is seen and the rest of the story begins to unfurl, we begin to realize that the opening was a fluke and we're watching yet another "disease of the week" movie that would be more at home on the Lifetime channel than in theaters.

The best thing one can say about "Adam" is that it's way better than "The Soloist," a recent similarly-minded clunker. Both movies reflect the behavior of their lead characters - they're easily distracted.

Meyer's best move comes with the introduction of Beth (Rose Byrne), a teacher who has just moved into a New York brownstone apartment above Adam. Still reeling from a recent break-up with a cad, Beth is oddly attracted to Adam, but keeps her distance.

People afflicted with Asperger's have symptoms that more resemble Turret's than autism. They have no filter between what they think and what comes out of their mouth and Adam says something to Beth while in Central Park that would earn most men a slap in the face.

After the casual brain-picking of a behavioral specialist co-worker, Beth has a better understanding of Adam's condition and she slowly starts to warm to the idea that he could be serious boyfriend material.

At this point, Meyer brings in the principal subplot and totally kills the momentum. Beth's romantic considerations regarding Adam don't sit well with her father Marty (Peter Gallagher). This is understandable as he is an elitist snob and this situation would have offered nice dramatic friction, but Meyer strays too far and starts to spend too much time on Marty's irrelevant legal troubles.

Meyer would have served everyone far better had he spent more time with Harlan (Frankie Faison), a war buddy friend of Adam's father who acts as Adam's confidant and Dutch uncle. This is the most interesting relationship in the film and unfortunately, it's least explored.

To his credit, Meyer avoids a predictable ending, but at the same time, he delivers one that few viewers will like or appreciate. (Fox Searchlight)