Benjamin Barry is an advertising executive and ladies' man who, to win a big campaign, bets that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. Andie Anderson covers the "How To" beat for "Composure" magazine and is assigned to write an article on "How to Lose a Guy in 10 days." They meet in a bar shortly after the bet is made.
John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey, a pair of committed womanizers who sneak into weddings to take advantage of the romantic tinge in the air, find themselves at odds with one another when John meets and falls for Claire Cleary.
A waitress meets personable, attractive Adam and they soon become lovers, then get engaged. Wasting no time, Adam starts an affair with her bookish sister, who knows about the first relationship. Their (none-too-happily) married third sister knows about both these liaisons but is still attracted to Adam. The lad is certainly playing the field, but in their own ways the girls seem to be getting just as much out of the deal as him. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Alice Owens Rooney:
Why do you do it, Adam?
Well, I don't know. I definitely don't do it because someone's fucked up my life and I want to get revenge. That would be no good, Alice. But maybe... Would you believe me if I told you that when I'm with people, listening to them, I notice that they always want something from me?
Alice Owens Rooney:
Oh, I'd believe that alright.
And it doesn't annoy me, I really like it. I like to give people what they want, if I can. Whatever makes them happy it's a very easy thing for me to do.
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'About Adam' is a male counterpart to Gerry Stembridge's classic TV drama, 'the Truth about Clare', his innovative film about Ireland and abortion. In that film, three characters tried to grope, through memories, prejudices, egotism, blindness etc., the truth about the title character, a pregnant woman who died following an abortion in England (it is still illegal in Ireland); here, four characters try to capture the essence of the elusive Adam, a jack of all relationships but mastered by none.
A knowledge of Stembridge's previous, more sober film gives this breezy comedy a darker edge - its tale of a family being given everything they sexually desire is an appropriate metaphor for a society like Ireland currently going through an unheard-of economic boom, creating a culture of extreme self-interest. The dangers of this self-interest are plain to see - a few weeks ago another Stembridge TV satire was aired about Ireland's racist treatment of refugees.
We have never had this much prosperity before, and we don't want anyone else sharing it. Similarly, the last person this film is 'about' is Adam. Like 'Clare', the film is structured around the personal narratives of each character involved with Adam - Lucy (Kate Hudson, and, I'm afraid, the hype for once is spot-on - she IS adorable), the spontaneous, singing waitress with a new boyfriend every week, who finally settles down to a 'great passion'; Laura (Frances O'Conner - can there be any doubt now that she is our finest actress?), the pretentious, uptight English post-grad doing a thesis on repressed Victorian women writers who is 'loosened up' by Adam, her assumptions revealed to be a lie; David, the brother, dating a prim virgin, enlisting Adam's help and finding himself sexually attracted to him; Alice, the elder sister, trapped in a prosperous marriage to a pompous dullard, intrigued by Adam, but unwilling to lose control like her siblings that easy.
Each narrative is tailored to each witness' personality (like 'Dracula', an ironic allusion throughout), in the way each story is shaped; in the stylistic devices employed; in tone; but, most importantly, in the perception of Adam. 'Clare', for all its excellence, played to that age-old myth, the mystery, inscrutability, unattainability, unknowability of woman. 'Adam', the first man, remorselessly documented throughout thousands of years of masculine culture, is suddenly the mystery, the woman, the sphinx, the passive black hole.
Adam (which may not even be his name) is the blank onto which the various characters project their fantasies - he is literally what they want him to be. Naturally, plot points overlap within the four stories, and our interpretation of them changes with greater knowledge, but, paradoxically, our knowledge of Adam diminishes, helped by the lies and stories he spins about himself. Who is Adam? Besides the obvious pleasure of bedding three beautiful women, why does he do it? In fact, forget that 'besides', that's probably your answer.
As well as alluding to his own work, Stembridge cleverly remodels two other classics of sexual amorphousness. Like Terence Stamp in Pasolini's 'Theorem', Adam is a stranger who enters a bourgeois household where everyone has a stereotypical role they adhere to, and which Adam smashes, forcing them to review their lives and the assumptions they live by. This has a liberating effect, but also a joyful one - this is a remarkably angst-free film. With his blank good looks, his white suit, and bleached blonde crop, Stuart Townsend (hi Celia!) is a ringer for the young Stamp.
The other allusion is to 'Alfie', that freewheelingly amoral sexual cad, lying his way through a score of beautiful women. Except Adam is the anti-Alfie, he does not humiliate or diminish women, they're the ones who develop; and he lacks the controlling power of narration; but he does limit them, reducing them to 'mere' sexual urge.
Significantly, both these films were key artefacts of the 1960s, and there is an optimism, a freshness, a vigour, a lightness to 'About Adam' that resembles the swinging 60s, as if Ireland, belatedly, has entered its own hedonistic decade. Both films, equally significantly, were warnings or analyses of that decade's fatal complacency, and in the exhilerating shots of Dublin that dot the film we cannot fail to notice the looming cranes, the building activity that suggests this story isn't quite finished, this culture hasn't quite reached maturity.
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