This is it: we finally get a well-needed theatrical depiction of a man with ASD in The Accountant. But how does it work in shining positive light on Autism? Well, let’s see…
Right from the first scene, a murder is setup to make us wonder, “What’s happening? Who killed who? Will we get our answers before this film is over?” Then it follows with one of the most stressful ways to begin a movie I have ever seen: A boy diagnosed with autism solves a Muhammad Ali jigsaw puzzle upside-down and goes uncontrollably berserk when he loses a puzzle piece. In that meantime, his parents are discussing with a psychologist about his future. His US Veteran father believes that his son needs maximum exposure to what triggers his sensitivity, as it prepares him for the noisy reality ahead of him.
So now, as a grown up, played by Ben Affleck, this Aspie’s nightly routine involves cranking his sensory exposure past its limit with strobe lights, loud music, and self-pain inflicted on his leg with a rolling pin. These sequences feel stressful enough, but it’s what he does outside his home that raises concerns.
He accepts a job at a corporation to perform intensive calculations of fifteen ledgers in order to calculate the business of their profits. It’s an intriguing scene that shines spectacular light on what autism can do, but what he does with this information will just as quickly discourage you. This man secretly uses these statistics to acquire money through tax evasion that he stores in his trailer, mercilessly putting a bullet to the head on everybody who gets in his way.
As he goes to avoid getting exposed for his crimes, he also develops a predictable romance with a coworker played by the overrated actress Anna Kendrick. Let me tell you, she got lucky with her Academy Award nomination for Up in the Air, but I cannot think of any role of hers, especially this one, where she put even a hint of effort or care into the part she was playing. Her so-called on screen chemistry with the bored-looking Ben Affleck here only makes her screen presence all the more depressing.
But back to the autistic criminal (wow, never thought I’d use those two words together); as he goes from accountant to tax robber, an investigation takes place elsewhere in Chicago from the perspective of an analyst who is investigating this case to avoid jail time. At first, this subplot adds nothing to the main plot, they are arranged in an inappropriate pattern by editor Richard Pearson (Quantum of Solace, United 93), who interrupts a scene mid-way with a completely unrelated scene.
Overall, this subplot is necessary, but has no sense of craft or flavor to make me want to care about the investigation. That is, until her boss, played by J.K. Simmons, tells his backstory that provides the needed glue to paste the film back together.
If somebody instantly familiar with autism were to watch this loud movie and see one of the few on-screen portrayals of a man on the spectrum, would they be pleased or disgusted?
Yes. As somebody on the spectrum myself, I am pleased to see all the truths said about autism: this accountant is full of sensitivity, makes little eye contact, is blunt in conversation, has the utensils in his drawer arranged in a specific way, and is an expert at gun-aiming. Yet at the same time, he uses his skills in numbers and attention to upfront the law. He disproves his father’s fears that he would be taken advantage of by utilizing of his own skills as a means of acquiring money for himself, leading to intense killings of those who are far worse than he is. It’s addressed that he’s doing wrong in these acts, but is he ever punished for his crimes? Well, without giving anything away, no. He is not rightfully punished for his crimes.
While The Accountant may prove how autism is capable in an insensitive world, it still treats the disorder as a plot device for the sake of the main conflict’s progression, while at the same time encouraging the use of skills to prove the political system wrong.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
The Accountant. Warner Bros. Web. <http://www.accountantmovie.com/#start>.
April McCormick, Children See, Children Do. HIGH QUALITY. Video. YouTube. 22 Jul 2013. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JrtpCM4yMM>.
Warner Bros. Pictures. The Accountant - "Who Is The Accountant?" Trailer [HD]. Digital image. YouTube. 12 May 2016. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNGhnNMSopI>.