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Adam (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


ADAM (2019)

Starring Nicholas Alexander, Bobbi Salvor Menuez, Margaret Qualley, Leo Sheng, Chloë Levine, Colton Ryan, Maxton Miles Baeza, Dana Aliya Levinson, Alisha B. Woods, Jari Jones, Rachel Burkhard, Katie Lynn Esswein, Gracie Lawrence, Haley Murphy, May Hong, Paige Gilbert, Scott Zimmerman and Ana Gasteyer.

Screenplay by Ariel Shrag.

Directed by Rhys Ernst.

Distributed by Wolfe Releasing. 95 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Adam has been hit by some preemptory bad blood even before it started because it is a coming-of-age romantic comedy that takes place on the outskirts of the gay and transgender scene. Therefore, lots of people – mostly people who haven’t even seen the film, because it hasn’t gotten wide release yet – have been voting to tank its scores on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

Which is kind of funny, given how basically benign Adam is as a film. It is a sweet film about the hazards of growing up. It does tell the story of a straight teenaged boy named Adam (Nicholas Alexander) who visits his proudly gay (though not completely out) sister (Margaret Qualley) who is living in Greenwich Village back in 2006.

Yes, it does take a look at the lesbian, gay and transgender world, but it looks at it with an outsider as the guide.

Adam goes looking for love, but since he knows only his sister in town, he spends lots of time with her friends – mostly lesbians, some transgender. It is not exactly a fertile ground for a teen boy looking for his first love. Complicating his quest is the fact that the women he meets who do seem interested assume – because he is always hanging with lesbians in gay bars and parties – that he is transitioning sexually into a man.

So, honestly, it is just the story of a normal teen boy learning about the scene, it is not a deep dive into the LGBTQ world. It is just a call for understanding and an introduction to that world. It shows that people are confused and willing to do stupid things for love on all scales of the spectrum – straight, gay, trans, whatever.

One slight complaint is that Adam is looking at 2006 LGBTQ issues through a 2019 prism. Even just the fact that they referred to it as LGBTQ is an anachronism – they just added the Q in the last few years; that term did not yet exist in 2006.

More to the point, in 2019 acceptance of these lifestyles is much more common – though as discussed in the first paragraph of this article, there is still homophobia out there. That homophobia was much more pronounced in the George W. Bush years – which is the era this film takes place in – so the openness of the lifestyles may have been a little more muted. Then again, it mostly takes place in the artier neighborhoods of the Village, which has always been an open and inclusive area.

But, again, the gay aspects of the film are somewhat window dressing. Adam is a story of an already relatively woke teen (he was the only one of his family that knew of his sister’s lesbianism before he visited her in New York) who learns to be even more understanding of other people’s differences.

He gets involved in a probably doomed relationship with a cute young lesbian (Bobbi Salvor Menuez), but perhaps even more important to the plot is his growing relationship with his sister and his budding friendships with her roommates (Leo Sheng and Chloë Levine). There is also an awkward section when one of his buddies from home (Colton Ryan) comes to visit and Adam realizes how different he is than the people he knows back home.

It’s actually surprising, for a film that is treading in slightly edgy waters, how old-fashioned and safe Adam often is, essentially. It is a celebration of love, family, freedom and finding your path in the world. It’s a pretty standard coming of age film, it just takes place in a funkier neighborhood than most.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: October 20, 2019.

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