About Adam Review

Mark Davis has reviewed the Region 2 release of About Adam. A gentle Irish Rom-Com with the delectable Kate Hudson. This is well worth a look as it is a lot better than the more (in)famous examples of the genre.

The Film

If I told you this film was a gentle romantic comedy and a U.S. actress had been shipped over to bolster a largely unknown cast you would probably jump to the wrong conclusion. This isn’t a Richard Curtis special and Hugh Grant doesn’t appear anywhere in it. This is in fact an Irish romantic comedy set in Dublin directed and written by Gerard Stembridge. Unfortunately I am probably the worst person in the world to review this disc as I loathe romantic comedies, I find them overly sentimental and unfunny. So it was with extreme foreboding that I placed this disc in my machine.

Even though the title works very hard to make us believe that this film is all About Adam it is in fact more to do with the family he affects and especially the 3 sisters Lucy (Hudson), Laura (O’ Connor) and Alice (Bradley). Lucy meets Adam first and falls for him in a big way. Unfortunately Laura, her mousey sister is also enamoured with him, as is Alice whose marriage is far from happy. Given the different nature and temperament of each of the three sisters it would seem unlikely that they could all be interested in one man. However Adam is not your typical man. He is funny and relaxed with Lucy whilst he is quiet, sensitive and bookish with Laura. Adam is all things to all women, an emotional chameleon who seems to adapt to any relationship.

So far, so humdrum, however this film has a clever trick up it’s sleeve. The plot revolves around the three sisters (and their brother) and their perceptions of Adam. As a result we end up seeing the same few days of real time on screen from four different perspectives so that we can see every aspect and detail of each siblings experience with Adam. Whilst we see Adam meet Lucy in an art gallery in “Lucy’s section” later on we’ll see Adam bump into Alice outside the Art gallery before meeting Lucy. So what seems a shallow plot on the first run through with Lucy is complicated further by the scenes with Laura and then more depth and breadth is added by the scenes with Alice.

If nothing else this film is very clever and I take my hat off to the writer for using a clever narrative method that isn’t just a gimmick. If all the scenes were spliced into chronological order the plot and narrative flow wouldn’t be half as interesting. When I was watching the Lucy section I thought it was a very dull run of the mill comedy. Then when the Laura section started it became obvious this was no average Rom-Com. The scenes with Laura make you think and you have to start assembling the entire plot in your head. Then when Alice’s section starts even more scenes are added and the whole picture comes into focus. As a trick I have to say it’s far more successful than others of this type (Such as Sliding Doors).

Unfortunately as is usually the case with such devices, this one does run out of steam before the film ends. Alice’s section is fairly lightweight in content compared to the other two and it doesn’t mesh in with the story as well. Also the fact that the style changes to a more traditional narrative in the last twenty minutes seems jarring. It’s a shame because I feel the whole film could have been resolved without having to revert to the norm.

The acting throughout is pretty strong. Stuart Townsend is mesmerising as Adam. His character is the stuff of pure fantasy and Townsend brings the across beautifully. The problem with a character that is all things to all people is that there is a great danger of him appearing smug and self-satisfied. Townsend never falls into this trap and by the end I almost fancied him myself! Kate Hudson is passable as Lucy and her accent is more than a little dodgy in places. Her character never seems to have any depth to it and she seems little more than window dressing. Frances O’Connor is much better as Laura. The transformation from bookish librarian to femme fetale is familiar ground in film but O’Connor covers it admirably. Finally Charlotte Bradley as Alice is very good indeed in the underwritten part of Alice. Despite the lack of decent material for her she tackles the part well and is excellent in places. A special mention must go to Alan Maher who plays their little brother David. He is hilarious in all of his scenes and whilst his character has no depth he is an excellent comic foil for when the interest level dips.

The direction is fairly lack-lustre throughout with camera techniques and shot composition being fairly bland. Mind you, I never expect much from a gentle romantic comedy and it is certainly more visually interesting than You’ve Got Mail or Pretty Woman. The best part of the direction here is in the way he directs the actors. Adam is especially good and the whole cast gels together very well indeed.

Overall this film is probably the most enjoyable Rom-Com I have ever seen. In fact it is the only enjoyable Rom-Com I have ever seen. The plot is fairly run of the mill but the narrative flow is inventive and the acting is excellent. I usually steer clear of the genre but in future I shall make more of an effort as there are obviously some gems hidden amongst the dross. Saying that don’t expect me to be watching anything with Meg Ryan in anytime soon.

The Disc
This Metrodome disc is a bit of a mixed bag I’m afraid. I never expect smaller productions like this to get big 2 disc editions but sometimes I wish some thought was put into the extras. Presentation is good with an attractive and easy to navigate menu system. There are 24 chapters, which is perfectly reasonable for the 97 minute running time.

The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 1.85:1. The print nice and clean with very little damage. The colours are vibrant and the black level is adequate. Artefacting is minimal which is understandable given the 4.97mb/sec average bitrate and the undemanding source. Overall this is a good accomplished transfer.

Romantic comedies don’t need huge sweeping epic soundtracks and About Adam doesn’t get one here either. The DD 5.1 mix is perfectly adequate but unexciting. The club scenes make most use of the rears and that’s about it. The most important point is that the dialogue is nice and clear and never lost in the sound mix.

As mentioned above the extras are weak. It’s not the quantity (or lack thereof) that bothers me it’s the lack of thought that goes behind them. First we have 6 minutes of director and cast interviews. These are moderately interesting but don’t throw up any great insights into the film. The B-roll footage runs for five minutes and is really a waste of disc space. This is simply five minutes of behind the scenes stuff seemingly chosen at random and chucked on the disc. Finally we have the usual trailer. Why Metrodome don’t take a bit more effort over the extras I don’t know. They could at least edit the interviews in with some clips and some behind the scenes footage to make a short featurette, instead we get raw footage and interviews with no presentation at all.

The film is surprisingly funny and clever in equal parts. It’s not the best film of all time by any means but it is entertaining and above average and that’s the main thing. The disc has an excellent picture and a great sound mix but the extras are a disaster and Metrodome really need to put some thought into this area. Any romantic comedy fan who passed on this as it didn’t star Hugh Grant or Meg Ryan should give this a try as it’s one of the most entertaining examples of the genre and the disc is reasonable too.

Mark Davis

Updated: Oct 19, 2001

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