Saturday, April 2, 2011

About Time: "About Adam" (2001)

Gerard Stembridge writes and directs a fantastic comedy that never takes the easy way out when it explores one family's relationships with one man.

Adam (Stuart Townsend) happens to see Lucy (Kate Hudson) in the restaurant she works at in Dublin. They become smitten, and the first part of the film covers her relationship with Adam. Adam gets along famously with Lucy's family- sisters Laura (Frances O'Connor) and Alice (Charlotte Bradley), brother David (Alan Maher), and mother Peggy (Rosaleen Linehan). Lucy proposes to Adam, who accepts, and the the film does an interesting thing. Lucy is dropped as the main protagonist and narrator, and Adam's relationship with the mousy feminist academic Laura is explored next. We see Adam and Lucy courting, but Laura has been meeting Adam, too, finally breaking free from her icy reputation.

David's relationship with Adam follows. David cannot seem to get his girlfriend Karen (Cathleen Bradley) into bed, and he and Adam devise a foolproof plan to get everyone drunk, then David makes his move. The plan seems to backfire, as Karen leaves Adam and David alone together, although Maher does have a funny scene where he accidentally gets aroused by Adam anyway. The final scenes happen between the oldest sister, restrained Alice, and Adam. Alice is stuck in a boring marriage, and Adam is finding her very sexy. The film ends on Lucy and Adam's planned wedding day.

In all four stories, Adam is perceived differently by each family member, but not to the point of silliness. To Lucy, he is a normal perfect guy. To Laura, he is an emotional brooder. To David, he is a ladies' man. To Alice, he is a horny dog giving her much needed attention. To the audience, Adam is extremely likable. He dallies with many members of the cast, but Stembridge never makes him out to be a villain for all of this. He is giving everyone what they want, perhaps in unorthodox ways, and there is not any evil scheme behind his bed hopping. Each family member hears a different story about how he obtained his sporty Jaguar, but the audience is never sure if Adam is lying or more likely the family members hear what they want to hear in order to complete their fantasy of him. The audience watches some of the same scenes over again, but from a different characters' point of view, which is great.

It is also fun to see a romantic comedy that can be bawdy at the same time. While nudity is kept to a minimum (a flash of Kate's boob), the sexual content is not, and the pillow talk is actually interesting. Stembridge has created a realistic family, a realistic outsider, and does not take the easy way out in exploring all the relationships.

While the Irish accents are good, they are also understandable. Hudson's is dead on. There are no scene stealers here, Stembridge wisely escorts the supporting cast into the background during each family member's story, and this makes an excellent balance.

This may not be a romantic comedy in the sense that couples might see themselves in it (unless the guy is trying to bed the sisters of the gal), and this twist is refreshing. "About Adam" is not only smart, but fun to watch. This little film deserves a big audience weened on "Maid in Manhattan." (* * * * *) out of five stars.