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dir-scr Max Mayer
with Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison, Mark Linn-Baker, Ursula Abbott, Karina Arroyave, Maddie Corman, Adam LeFevre, Mark Margolis, Haviland Morris
release US 29.Jul.09, UK 31.Jul.09
Talk to me: Byrne and Dancy
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Quirky and cute almost to the point of distraction, the offbeat romance is only rescued by its likeable cast and an intriguing storyline. But the writer-director overstates everything, and encourages his actors to do the same.
Adam (Dancy) lives in a Manhattan flat on his own after the death of his father. He has Asperger syndrome, working as a toy company microchip developer and pretty hopeless at relationships. Then Beth (Byrne) moves into his building, and they strike up a friendship that leads to romance. She's attracted to his honesty, although her parents (Gallagher and Irving) aren't so sure. And the events that follow in both Adam's and Beth's lives put a heavy strain on their relationship.
Like Juno, this is one of those clever films that feels like it's been written and re-written until all traces of real life have been drained completely from the script. The dialog is all so "meaningful" that there's no space for either spontaneity or humour. And the plot progresses to specific points through a structure that comes straight out of film school, from the deliberate sweetness to the moment when someone actually asks, "What is Asberger's?" Which of course allows for the obvious exposition.
All of this combines with a series of events that feel carefully contrived, performances that never allow for a moment of subtext and music that tells us exactly what to feel. In other words, it's all so overstated that it feels completely fake. That isn't to say that Dancy and Byrne don't find touching emotions along the way; and Irving is especially natural in her role. There's also a lovely sense that, even as Adam must learn to deal with others, Beth also has to discover how to be more open and honest with him.
So it's frustrating that Mayer piles on simplistic explanations and rather ludicrous events, including a distracting courtroom subplot that feels pasted in out of another film. Yet Mayer lingers on that while cutting away from Adam's experiences. And the timing of each plot element is so orchestrated that we simply can't believe it for a second. So even though some scenes find a real resonance, we never feel it actually grabs hold of us.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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