Thursday, May 27, 2010

Movie Review: Adam


I wanted to like Adam so much, and for the first half of the movie, it charmed me. Hugh Dancy did a phenomenal job of portraying Asperger's Syndrome: his shyness, his love of talking about his favorite topic (space), his inattention to the needs of people, his loneliness, his desire for companionship, etc. I "bought" into his character as real and authentic, even though one Aspie bluntly told him his was "competent"! That is what we love about our spectrum kiddos: they are quite truthful. Painful doctors of the unvarnished truth. I also liked seeing him grow and learn to be his own person, especially after having lived with his father for so many years. I loved how he found the right job that suited his strengths.

His love interest, Beth, was trying to help him get a job. His father, who had recently died, greased the skids for the last job. On paper, Adam looked great--a whiz kid. His difficulty in social situations typically became apparent during the interview process. Beth gave him a book on Asperger's and employment and Adam read it faithfully from cover to cover. They even practiced doing interviews so that Adam could feel more competent. All of that is well and good.

One moment broke my heart. It wasn't the obligatory bedroom scene that every romantic comedy must have and thankfully was mild, but gratuitous. It wasn't the two women who adopted a baby girl from China that gave the movie the politically correct stamp of approval. In case you doubt me, I dare you to read Under the Tuscan Sun and then see the movie without coming to the same conclusion. Both movies incorporated both formulas and ticked me off royally. Speaking of which, I hope The Young Victoria, which just arrived from Netflix, doesn't fall into the same mindless trap to widen its appeal. Does Hollyweird underestimate our intelligences that much? Uh, yes. Have you watched television lately?

What broke my heart was when Adam read that most Aspies get around eye contact, which we "evil" neurotypicals demand, by looking at a person's forehead. Do Aspies do this in reality? Yes. In fact, I do this sometimes. When I sing at a funeral, I look at the tops of peoples' heads, even if they are total strangers, because I will fall apart if I see someone tear up. What saddened me is that people completely miss the point of eye contact, which is really a terrible word for what it really is.

We call it social referencing, more than eyeballing someone to death. It means looking to another person for their perspective in unclear situations and interpreting their nonverbal and verbal communication. Even children as young as one year old can do this as evidenced in the classic visual cliff experiment. Even though these babies cannot say one word, they will study, literally study, their parent's facial expression.

While I am not saying all people in the spectrum can master this skill, I know for a fact that at least one has. In fact, Pamela was only a couple of years younger than Adam when she learned to do this. It broke my heart that trying to teach this pivotal skill wasn't even considered as possible.


Bonnie said...

I hate that Hollywood feels they must inject sex into everything too! You are right about the eye contact. People get caught up in the skill and forget the PURPOSE behind it.

Stranded said...

I enjoyed this movie but not because of its great protrayal of aspergers. I agree with your comments on it. I think Hugh Dancy is great in this role.
Have you ever watched this bit 1980's hit Say Anything. They kind of took the storyline from there and changed it to a leading man with Aspergers.