As Adam, Hugh Dancy (Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Jane Austen Book Club) certainly tries his level best to get into an Asperger's state of mind and embody the weight it bears, but he tries too hard.  Like the script, Dancy's approach and execution is more calculated than organic.  We see the acting mechanics constantly churn rather than flow.  I'll grant it's not an easy character to tackle, but Dancy's performance unfortunately proves how true that is.  Rose Byrne demonstrates more versatility as the charming Beth (especially in comparison to her tortured and fierce regular role on TV's Damages), but there's only so much talent can do to maneuver through material that rushes romantic growth and emotional turns.

Dramatically, it reaches.  When the biggest relational conflict mustered is a melodramatic blowup over the littlest of white lies (graciously intended, no less), it speaks to how little is observed (or was researched) when it comes to such an idiosyncratic psychological condition.  Making a mountain out of such a molehill also creates flat drama, inherently suggesting the fight's assured resolution. 

So instead of doing the work to really dig into this unique dynamic, Mayer completely bogs down the final act with a subplot involving Beth's elitist father and his legal trouble.  The script spends too much time retreading crisis we've seen countless times before as it progressively ignores its singular core trait. 

Why not, for example, give Beth an initial shallow prejudice toward Asperger's that she must overcome?  Why not have her require as much growth as him, thus resulting in a more authentic (and rich) relational arc between the two?  Alas, what we end up with is something more plot than character driven, mired in an exponentially unbearable mix of cuteness and sorrow.

Which brings us back to the end.  So contrived is everything that leads up to it, the least it could do is give us what we expect; I mean why break precedent, right?  Yet it does.  After all the fight, struggle, crying and screaming Adam and Beth endure between each other and her parents, where it all ends is a real slap-in-the-face.  Oddly enough, that ending is the film's one honest moment.  What makes it wrong is that it needed the exact opposite movie to earn it.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Alcohol is consumed in social settings. 
  • Language/Profanity:  A few profanities occasionally used.  While not constant, they do include the "s" word and two uses of the "f" word.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Man's hand touches breast underneath clothing.  Couple lies in bed together, they kiss and are affectionate.
  • Violence/Other:  Adam erupts aggressively in one scene, wreaking havoc over a room, but no actual physical violence occurs

Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla.  He is also cohost of "Steelehouse Podcast," along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture. 

To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com or click here.  You can also subscribe to "Steelehouse Podcast" through iTunes.