As strange as it may sound, “About Adam,” Gerard Stembridge’s smartly sexy romantic comedy, could be described as a cross between Pasolini’s “Teorema” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Appealing newcomer Stuart Townsend dominates this amoral Irish yarn about a dashing lad who effortlessly and joyously courts and beds an entire family, to the benefit of all concerned. Exuding charm and resembling “Four Weddings” in its episodic structure, this Anglo-Irish production may be too modest to create major waves Stateside, but a savvy marketing campaign should help Miramax score among young urban crowds, with better results in foreign markets, particularly English-speaking ones.
Writer-director Stembridge plays with shifting perspectives in a fresh manner that defies expectations of the romantic genre. Brightly observed narrative centers on the Owens, a modern Irish family whose stable existence is turned upside down when a mysterious charmer named Adam (Townsend) suddenly enters their lives. Script takes the thematic conventions of sexual desire and family betrayal, which in most films are used moralistically, and explores them in a humorously positive way: None of the characters is blamed or judged for treacherous conduct.
On a typical night in a trendy Dublin restaurant, Lucy Owens (Kate Hudson) goes about her usual routine of singing torch songs, waiting tables and complaining about rotten luck in love. A handsome stranger named Adam walks into the place, and after exchanging one look with him, the waitress’s heart is melting. Tired of her string of short-term boyfriends, Lucy agrees to marry Adam without knowing anything about him.
The duo go on dates and their romance heats up, but Adam proves unpredictable, to say the least. Before long, his magnetism conquers Lucy’s entire family. In Chekhovian fashion, there are three vastly different sisters. The middle one, Laura (Frances O’Connor), is a bookish woman whose love for poetry serves as romantic impetus. Eldest sis, the elegant Alice (Charlotte Bradley), is resistant at first, but she too succumbs. And in one of the film’s funniest passages, Adam pays a visit to the Owens’ son, David (Alan Maher), and his wife. As scripter and helmer, Stembridge finds a wonderfully buoyant structure for his comic confection. Tale is divided into chapters, each told from the p.o.v. of one of the characters. Unlike “Four Weddings,” which ultimately was moralistic and conservative in its message — marriage equals maturity and responsibility while singlehood is a temporary, undesirable phase — “About Adam” is a frolic free of any judgments, and marked by Stembridge’s sparkling wit.
This literate ensembler is propelled by talent behind and in front of the camera. Townsend, who physically resembles the young Terence Stamp, is perfectly cast as the dark, spirited outsider. Rest of the mostly female cast is equally deft and attractive.
Stylish look and lavish settings and costumes, courtesy of gifted lenser Bruno De Keyser, production designer Fiona Daly and costumer Eimear Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, convey a very different impression of contempo Dublin from that imparted in most Irish films.