Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Now on Netflix: Atypical, Season 1 (2017)

Atypical (2017) - Created by Robia Rashid; Starring Keir Gilchrist, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Rappaport, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Amy Okuda, Nik Dodani, Raul Castillo, Graham Rogers, Jenna Boyd.

By Kenny Howell

Great performances help cover up a sitcomy approach in this series about a teenager with autism.

Keir Gilchrist (It Follows) is excellent as Sam, a senior in high school on the autism spectrum. He has problems with social interactions, loud sounds, uncomfortable environments, etc. His mother Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has been his primary caregiver, working herself silly to make sure he is safe, that no triggers set him off and create an incident.

But Sam is an 18-year-old young man now, and his interests have turned toward girls. His therapist, played by a delightful Amy Okuda, tells him that people on the spectrum date, and there is no reason that he can't get out there and do it as well. Sam likes to approach everything logically, so he starts devising a plan to get a girlfriend and have sex for the first time.

Series creator Robia Rashid sort of approaches this series as one of those teenager trying to get laid movies through the eyes of someone who approaches social interaction differently. She veers into sitcom territory quite often as the series can be very on the nose at times, but there are enough laughs, genuine moments, and terrific acting to overcome it.

Gilchrist has to walk a fine line of getting humor out of Sam's condition while not making fun of it, and he handles it well, not overdoing it. Despite Leigh being in the position of the steady hand in the cast, that really belongs to Michael Rappaport (The Heat) who plays Sam's flawed, but caring father. I think Leigh is a bit lost with her character, a mother who has been taxed for so many years of having to take care of everyone but herself, but I think that has more to do with the writing of her character than her performance. I haven't even mentioned Brigette Lundy-Paine as Sam's protective younger sister, who is also great, and that should show you how good the cast is. Without them, this might have been much different and not nearly as effective. But they definitely as a cast get you through the times when it might falter.

The first season of Atypical is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ***

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