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'About Adam'

Everybody's crazy for the guy in this Irish film

Friday, June 15, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Temptation in the Garden of Eden normally comes from Eve. In this case, it's not Eve's fault: The forbidden sexual fruit is Adam's apple. That's the erotic genesis of a tale set in modern Dublin, by Irish director-writer Gerard Stembridge, of a guy who proves irresistibly seductive first to one, then a second, and finally to all three sisters of the close-knit Owens family -- plus their mother and brother, for good measure.

 
    'About Adam'

RATING: R in nature for sexual themes

STARRING: Stuart Townsend, Kate Hudson, Frances O'Connor, Charlotte Bradley, Rosaleen Linehan

DIRECTOR: Gerard Stembridge

CRITIC'S CALL: 3 stars.

 
 

And who could blame them?

Stuart Townsend, in the title role of "About Adam," at the Denis, is the most charismatic Irishman since St. Patrick. His first conquest is Lucy (Kate Hudson), a hip cafe singer with a helluva rendition of "The Man I Love," among other torch songs. He's so sweet and "his name is so primal," she swoons. One night on stage, in a bold romantic mood and move with her mother and sisters in the audience, Lucy asks him to marry her. Everybody holds his or her breath: Adam says yes.

Bookish sister Laura (Frances O'Connor of "Mansfield Park"), on the other hand, is not taken by Adam's charms at first. But behind Laura's back, he starts whispering literary sweet nothings (sexy Christina Rosetti poems) into her ear, and it's not long before they too fall happily into the sack together with more than just poetic license.

Oldest sister Alice (Charlotte Bradley) sees through him and is too smart and sophisticated to fall for Adam's allure -- for a while. Brother David likes him so much he concludes he, David, is a repressed homosexual, while their mum (Rosaleen Linehan) flat-out adores this mysterious Adam from the start.

What's as intriguing as the tale itself is Stembridge's nonsequential technique of telling it, from four different viewpoints, initially focusing on the Adam-Laura affair and only gradually revealing the other relationships bit by bit.

Ah, this enchanting Adam and his enthralling chance encounters with the sisters! He seems to be everywhere at once, especially in a brilliant dress-shop scene, full of "Rashomon"-type differences in perception -- and also full of secrets. Townsend ("Shooting Fish," "Under the Skin") is perfect in his part.

So are the sisters, most notably Hudson (daughter of Goldie Hawn), who was nominated for an Oscar this year in Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous."

Stembridge's Ireland is different from the one we're used to seeing lately: upscale Dublin, devoid of terrorist Troubles or anything else remotely political. A leading radio, TV and stage writer in his country, his politically and morally incorrect conclusion suggests betrayal and sexual infidelity lead to the fulfillment of passion and happiness.

A bit tongue in cheek. A serio-comic fascination that, in the end, is hardly about Adam at all but about the dynamics among three sisters who are the flip side of Chekhov's in every way.

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