Let’s cut to the chase here- most films dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders are pretty much crap, and despite a effective performance from Lou Taylor Pucci, this movie is basically no exception. “The Story of Luke” is a movie where characters behave in a highly unlikely way to aid the development of the plot. Most of the characters are not just abrasive, they’re downright mean. They constantly antagonize Luke and call him a retard, before having a road to Damascus and realizing how much the kid needs their friendship and support.
The main character, Luke, has been looked after by his grandparents since his mom dumped him on them when he was four. Luke has Autism, and his predictable routine is suddenly changed when his Grandma dies and his somewhat foul-mouthed Grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) begins deteriorating health-wise. Luke is sent to live with his Uncle Paul (Cary Elwes, As you Wish) and Aunt Cindy (Kristen Bauer van Straten of “True Blood” fame) and their bratty kids. Aunt Cindy is pretty much a major-league C-U-N-T.
She doesn’t want Luke there and she makes absolutely no effort to hide her anger at his arrival or her disgust at his limitations. However, the duo bond of over discussion of Cindy’s sexual frustrations (inappropriate?) and alcohol (!) In an attempt to court a woman named Maria (Sabryn Rock, I’ve never seen her before but she is gorgeous) and her lovely breasts- uh, disabled people enthusing about sex, never awkward, especially when it’s handled in a facepalm-worthy way such as this- Luke attempts to get a job.
Although he succeeds in entering a training program for people with disabilities, Luke is paired with the world’s worst supervisor. Enter Zach (Seth Green,) a total whack who berates Luke constantly, slams him against the wall, and tells him he was put on this earth for people to pity and condescend to. If Zach were NT (neurotypical) he would be considered nothing more than a bully, but since he’s on the Autistic Spectrum the film pairs him up with Luke as a an unlikely ally.
I truly believe that disabled people should be treated like sexual beings, but here’s what I don’t like. Handicapped peoples’ sexuality being portrayed as ‘cute’ and willfully awkward. As in, ‘aw, he’s thinking about boobies just like a normal person, isn’t that sweet?’
Here’s a short list of unbelievable events in this movie.
. Everyone constantly mistreating Luke and ‘stage-whispering’ about his disability as loud as they can (did you hear a retarded man is coming to live with the so-and-so’s?!! Poor dear!)
. The guy at the employment office asking Luke if he can multiply big numbers. I know this is supposed to be a commentary on “Rain Man”-esque misconceptions about Autism, but please! Calling the way this scene was presented over-the-top is an understatement.
. The cousin’s girlfriend immediately flirting with the bewildered Luke after he catches them making out and asking him to ‘pass her her bra’ provocatively.
And last, but not least…
. Uncle Paul telling Luke that he and Aunt Cindy ‘made love’ for the first time in over a year. I know this is supposed to fill us up with an ‘aw everything is going to be all right between them’ , warm ‘n fuzzy feeling, but in what likelihood would a man be telling his Autistic nephew that he got some trim last night?
I like Luke. It’s easy to like Luke. But as likable as Luke is, you can’t deny that the script is simply flimsy. The film takes the endearing Luke, and puts him in a universe that’s a little more ruthless and strident than it needs to be Most of the characters feel neither fleshed-out nor authentic. I thought indie movies were supposed to feel more real than the soulless mainstream, not less?