Case Number 18227: Small Claims Court


Fox // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // February 2nd, 2010

The Charge

A story about two strangers. One a little stranger than the other.

The Case

Adam (Hugh Dancy, Savage Grace) is an awkward young man living in a big apartment in New York City. He had been living with his father, but since Dad just died, he lives alone. Beth (Rose Byrne, Damages) is a pleasant young woman who's just moved into the building. They meet cutish and, sooner than not, seem to be falling into a semi-quirky New York romance.

The catch? Adam isn't just socially awkward, he has Asperger's syndrome. While many people with Asperger's are highly intelligent and can function -- take care of themselves, hold jobs, all that -- their social skills are generally poor and can be off-putting.

Adam, for instance, tends to blurt things out with a cringe-inducing lack of finesse. "Are you going to prison?" he flatly asks Beth's father (Peter Gallagher, Bob Roberts), a business who's been indicted for messing around with his company's books. When Beth brings him to a party, he rudely declines a woman's invitation to look at videos of her newly adopted daughter, and then corners another guest and prattles on about the inner workings of a telescope.

But Adam is cute and smart -- he's a science whiz -- and sees the beauty of sneaking into Central Park at night to watch a family of raccoons interact. He's unlike anyone Beth has ever met, particularly her smarmy, cheating ex-boyfriend.

But does she have the patience to lead this manchild into the promised land?

Adam is a sweet-natured, unassuming little movie bolstered by an appealing performance by Hugh Dancy. It's pleasant and predictable, but far from the ghastly watch it could have been.

The early scenes, when we first meet Adam and a bit later, when Adam meets Beth, are the most interesting. We learn about the characters not with long speeches, but watching them in their day-to-day. Adam's life is rote; he goes to work, eats the same thing for dinner, tries to adapt himself to life without his father. Beth is intrigued with him, and although he's a bit odd, we get it. When he takes her to observe the raccoons, it's charming, and makes him different from the type of guy we expect she'd normally meet. That Adam is intelligent and can speak on a number of topics outside the realm of gossip and current events make him appealing.

Things begin to flounder a bit around the middle of the movie. While the film initially eschewed heavy-handedness and crazy-cute, it descends around the 40-minute mark. In rapid succession, we get: Adam in an astronaut suit cleaning Beth's windows (she'd earlier complained they were filled with soot); Beth discussing "The Emperor's New Clothes" with a bunch of children (she's a teacher), and slowing recognizing the value of Adam's childlike way of blurting out the truth; and a date at a restaurant that seems to have a horror theme, with people in masks and a waiter named "Rom" with a prop knife stuck in his head. Is this really the place you'd take a guy who barely leaves his home other than to work or go to the store?

Also, around this point, Beth decides to take her relationship with Adam to the "next level." Adam has no trouble with the whole sex thing, suggesting that Beth is not his first time at the rodeo. This is also when the film starts to focus more on Beth's father and his legal troubles, which draws focus from Adam and is just not all that interesting. The film ultimately plays out like a standard rom-dram, which is a shame, given its promising beginning.

Rose Byrne is OK as Beth, but as written, the character sometimes seems as naïve as Adam. She seems to see her new boyfriend as a challenge rather than a guy who is challenged, and a confrontation between the two -- in which Adam becomes enraged when he discovers a casual falsehood -- just doesn't ring true. Gallagher is appropriately oily as Beth's father, and Amy Irving, whose appearances these days are too few and far between, makes little impression as Beth's mother.

The disc looks and sounds fine -- although Fox sent a screener, I'm guessing this is pretty much how the finished product will be, sans the Fox logo popping up in the beginning and at the end. Extras consist of a standard commentary with director Max Mayer and producer Leslie Urdang; some fairly useless deleted scenes; an alternate ending, which is actually better than the ending they used; and a couple of featurettes, one a clip-heavy piece with Byrne and Dancy extolling the film, the other a segment of Fox Movie Channel's "Life After Film School" with Byrne talking about Adam to some film students.

The Verdict

Not a bad film by any means, just an ultimately undistinguished romantic drama.

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2010 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurette

* IMDb