Category: Archive

Film Review How ‘Adam’ had ’em

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Michael Gray

Before "Almost Famous" made her much more than that, Hollywood starlet, Kate Hudson got her first break in a lead role in "About Adam," a sly Irish comedy about perfect love, rampant infidelity and sisterly betrayal. Scripted and directed by one of Ireland’s most prolific stage and TV writers, Gerard Stembridge, the film premiered with little fanfare in the U.S. at Sundance 2000. But Hudson’s Golden Globe Award and Oscar nomination for her performance in the Cameron Crowe hit suddenly made her a hot property, and inspired Miramax to give Stembridge his first feature release in the U.S.

Stembridge had already made his name in Ireland on RTE radio, as the writer of the savage political satire "Scrap Saturday," starring a pre-"Father Ted" Dermot Morgan. The show cut a little too close to the bone for the government-run broadcasting corporation, and it was abruptly discontinued, leaving Stembridge free to tackle Ireland’s hot political issues on a more serious level, writing and directing for TV and the big screen. His first feature film, "Guiltrip," released shortly before the divorce referendum in Ireland more than a decade ago, was a harrowing indictment of an abusive marriage in a small Irish town. He followed it up with a TV movie, "The Truth About Clare," a compelling faux-documentary that investigated the circumstances leading to the suicide of a depressed housewife after she went to England for an abortion. Both of these films were adroitly structured, high-quality dramas that received critical acclaim on the home front, but were too serious in content to reach the mass market further afield.

Stembridge remedies this situation with "About Adam," taking a breather from his earlier socio-political concerns to tell a wickedly funny tale about the effect that a handsome, charming man has on a household of Dublin women. He cast Kate Hudson as Lucy Owen, a bubbly singing waitress in a Dublin bistro who skips blithely from one relationship to the next, leaving behind her a trail of broken hearts (her latest castoff is played with morose self-deprecation by rising stand-up comedian Tommy Tiernan). She never expects to be seriously moved by any man, until Adam (Stuart Townsend) appears on the scene at the restaurant where she works. The handsome hipster is charm personified, but gentle and laid back about it, and leaves all the pursuing to Lucy. Besides having sex appeal and impeccable manners, Adam works in a photo gallery in Temple Bar and drives the coolest of cars, an E-Type Jag, and Lucy is completely smitten by him. She takes him home to meet her widowed mother (played with real verve by Irish comedy veteran Rosaleen Linehan) and her two sisters, repressed neurotic student Laura (Frances O’Connor) and bored suburban housewife Alice (Charlotte Bradley). The entire family takes to her new beau, and Lucy finds herself wanting to make the relationship permanent. Adam, ever deferential to her wishes, agrees to marry her when she proposes to him out of the blue and in public. But the plot then takes a few unsettling twists — the revelation of which would ruin the element of surprise crucial to the viewer’s enjoyment of the film — as each of the sisters, and their brother too, all find in Adam something that is missing in their lives. Suffice to say that Stembridge cleverly teases out his Rashomon-meets-Teorema yarn from four different viewpoints, to reveal that Adam is one of the nicest reprobates the Owens family will ever meet. Stembridge may have set his serious themes aside to reach a mainstream audience, but he still asks all sorts of awkward questions about what women want, and what happens when they get it, fearlessly exposing himself to likely accusations of sexism along the way.

"About Adam" is that rare entity, an intelligent romantic comedy. It’s also a wickedly amoral tale, refreshingly free from the comeuppance in the finale that the main protagonist would inevitably suffer in a Hollywood version of the same story. Stembridge’s elicits fine performances all around from his cast, and in particular the two leads, Townsend as the chameleon bad-boy with a heart of gold, and Hudson as one of the women who loves him. The film is slick and stylish — courtesy of cinematographer Bruno De Keyser, lensman behind one of the most beautiful films ever made in Ireland, Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s "December Bride" — and showcases a modern, upscale Dublin in the here-and-now, without the usual battery of sentimental clichés to remind viewers that the film is set in Ireland. Stembridge’s earlier work may be too heavy for the multiplex, but "About Adam" achieves the right light mix of laughs and deft storytelling to create the funniest Irish comedy in years, and should give its director the international recognition his formidable talent deserves.

"About Adam" is now on limited release nationwide.

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