In the spectrum of movies about people with behavioral disorders, “Adam,” about a young man (Hugh Dancy) with a type of high-functioning autism, is on the glamorized, entertainment-oriented end, kind of like an indie “Rain Man.”
Adam (Dancy) suffers from Asperger syndrome, which makes it difficult for him to modulate his behavior or understand the subtle behavior of others. He's also intense about science, especially astronomy (people with AS tend to focus on specialized interests), but not so much that he doesn't notice the fetching young Beth (Rose Byrne) when he bumps into his new neighbor in their apartment building's laundry room.
As they get to know each other, Adam immediately explains what's different about himself — partly because he can't help it and partly because he doesn't want to scare her off. Best to go ahead and blurt out why he blurts things out and be done with it.
Adam is aware of how unusual his condition can make him seem, so he avoids new or complicated situations, has trouble finding work and anguishes over how to court his new gal pal. He's both too candid and too aloof, a conflicting combination that makes him an uncomfortable date — but in a way is also intriguing to a girl like Beth. The scenes of Adam and Beth getting to know each other are the most endearing aspect of the movie.
Byrne and Dancy are extremely likable together, and there's a slow-simmering heat to their relationship. There are also a couple of compelling subplots to break the monotony of Adam and Beth: Adam's father (whom we never meet) has died, leaving him to fend for himself; and Beth's father (Peter Gallagher) is on trial for corruption.
The only problem with the movie is that it never makes Adam's condition more than a nagging conflict for Adam and Beth's affair. You don't get a sense of how much of a problem AS really is for Adam. Partly that's because the condition is difficult to pin down. But also, though Adam has a lot of anxiety about facing new challenges, his life — in a posh Manhattan apartment with lots of money and a cute girlfriend — is pretty sweet.
There's less insight about Asperger or behavioral disorders in general in “Adam” than advertised, though there's more moving love story than you might imagine. Though the film is entertaining, the two parts never quite cohere. (PG-13) 97 min. HHIII S