“Asperger’s Are Us”, from Duplass Brothers: four young men outgrowing Asperger’s present a comedy show in Boston

The Duplass Brothers (Jay and Mark Duplass, “The Puffy Chair”) have a produced a new documentary, “Asperger’s Are Us” for Netflix (late 2016), directed by Alex Lehmann.

The documentary traces the lives of four older teens in the Boston area who have somewhat “outgrown” their Asperger’s syndrome (and possibly brushes as children with more severe autism) and who put on a comedy show  (the Asperger’s Comedy Troupe) in early 2015 before going their separate ways, to work or college (one goes to Oxford).

The leader of the pack is Noah Britton, the oldest (around 20), tall and lean and frankly charismatic.  The others are Jack Hanke, New Michael Ingemi (who had outgrown extreme anger and self-control problems as a boy, according to his own narrative), and Ethan Finlan, who likes trains.

The speech and manner of the young men does not seem exceptional by today’s customs.  Perhaps the talk is sometimes slightly nerdy and deliberate, but not all that much.

Yet, the boys provide some narrative of their earlier years, including special education in some cases, showing binders one of them created (I remember grading special ed. Binders as an assignment back in 2006 when I was working as a substitute teacher).  On of the boys describes earlier aversion to unwanted physical contact, a “cut off of sensitivity” and “dulling of the senses”.  I recall this from my own experience in 1962 at age 19 at NIH, when I once said in family therapy “I want to be dulled”.  These were difficult days, brought on in some part by the expectations of others.

The final show has some skits, like “Small Claims Court”, and even “Presidential Press Conference”.  The boys must have predicted that Donald Trump would run and win, as Ethan plays a caricature of today’s president Trump (and this is two years ago) and fires back, “Are you a pervert?” Or maybe he resembles Sean Spicer even more.  This could almost get on to SNL.

Name:  “Asperger’s Are Us
Director, writer:  Alex Lehmann
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length:  78
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Netflix Red Envelope, Duplass
Link:  Troupe official site, film site FB

Related films on my legacy blogs for autism, Asperger’s.

I also reviewed “Tower”, by Keith Meitland, about the University of Texas Tower shooter rampage In 1966, on a legacy blog yesterday (after it played on PBS;  see Index).

(Aspergers is often spelled without the apostrophe.)

Picture: demonstration om Cambridge, MA in August 2015, my visit.

(Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 6:30 PM EST)

“The Accountant” : This autistic figurehead for the mob has amazing charisma and personal integrity

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Name: The Accountant
Director, writer:  Gavin O’Connor
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, 2016/10/20, evening, good crowd
Length 128
Rating PG-13
Companies: Warner Brothers
Link: official 

 

The Accountant” (2016), by Gavin O’Connor and written by Bill Dubuque, makes its central character, a 40-year-old man who outgrew his autism with the help of a very determined military father, into a rather charismatic figure.

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) seems to have a lot of integrity, and loyalty to people he loves.  He speaks directly and simply.  He has this narrow focus on what he does.  So he is a genius at doing math in his head (a savant) and a dangerous sharpshooter (“I shoot”).  He lives simply in a house in suburban Chicago and eats according to rituals.  He does a bizarre fitness routine involving rolling a dough bar on his now nearly hairless legs.

The only trouble is how he has made his living: as an accountant for the mob.  Only someone like Christian can grasp the bizarre mechanics of offshore accounts and money laundering. Oh, he got caught once and managed to build friendships in Leavenworth, and then escape, and then set up his own shell companies.

He remains the good guy, protecting his mob-connected younger brother, and building a cautious relationship with a fellow aspie, Dana (Anna Kendrick) whom he meets at a supposedly legitimate robotics company whose books he has been hired to uncook.

Add to the books the childless, single robotics CEO Lamar Black (John Lithgow), and the Treasury agent, resurrected from retirement, to find him (JK Simmons) and his protégé (Cynthia Addai-Robinson).

I don’t think the film really does that much for people with autism, though. It’s popcorn stuff.

(Posted: Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 at 10:15 AM EDT)

“Life, Animated”: How Disney films helped a young man grow out of autism

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Name: Life, Animated
Director, writer:  Roger Ross Williams, Ron Suskind (book)
Released:  2016
Format:  HD video film
When and how viewed:  2016/7/16. Landmark Bethesda Row, late show, small audience
Length 91
Rating NA (PG-13)
Companies: The Orchard, A&E
Link: Owen’s own drawings

Life, Animated”, directed by Roger Ross Williams, tells another story of an autistic young person, going into adulthood.

In the end, the young man, Owen Suskind, at 24, seems  communicative enough that you wouldn’t necessarily notice the disability, except for a slight monotone at times in his accent.  He gets a job at a Regal movie theater, and has moved into his own apartment (although there is mention of some kind of regular assistance) at some distance from his family’s home, which appears to be in the Boston (maybe Cape Cod) area if I saw the film right.

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Owen’s father is Ron Suskind, a well-known journalist and author  .  Ron wrote the book “Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Austism”.  Owen has a very supportive older brother, Walter, mother.

The early part of the film documents Owen’s sudden decline and loss of speech at about age 3.  But somehow he found a world “to connect to” in Walt Disney animated movies.  There was a particular “aha momenet’ associated with “The Little Mermaid” (1989).  Some of the other films included “Alladin”, “The Lion King”, “Peter Pan”, “Dumbo” (one of the first films I saw, with my parents, as a boy), and “Bambi”.    Oh, remember also Qausimodo in both classic and animated versions of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (which we spent half a year reading in high school senior French class). Animation seemed to show Owen how to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

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Owen gradually took up drawing, “sidekick” cartoon characters rather than the main heroes.  His slogan became “Protect the Sidekicks”.  I wondered if there was any relation to major comic book characters, or if Owen takes any interest in manga (or games with many characters like Danganronpa), or even the Pokemon Go game now

I had some experience with autism when working as a substitute teacher in 2005.  Owen, at the end of the film, functions at a much stronger level than the high school students I encountered.  The film does not cover Asperger’s Syndrome, which is regarded as part of the autism spectrum disorder.

(Pictures: My trip to Cape Cod, Aug. 2015).