I’m not saying it’s a good movie. It’s not. It’s Hallmarky and lame. Plus it’s hard to follow. But it does offer one thing the world needs to see: an autistic guy living life on his own terms.
Christian Wolff takes life by the balls. He’s used his obligatory savant skills to make millions of dollars as a money launderer for mobsters. He’s a badass too. He strangles a guy with what looks like a piece of seatbelt.
I know the autistic community is up-in-arms about him being a killer because some people still see us as school shooters. But this is a movie. The bad guys are cool. Seriously, ask anyone who their favorite character was in The Little Mermaid. They’re not going to say Ariel.
Christian’s not a real bad guy anyway. Apparently a special-ed villain is still too transgressive for our times. Most of the people he kills are by way of saving someone or avenging someone he cares about. And he doesn’t even keep his blood money. Our hero is so goshdarned principled that he donates almost everything to a home for autistic people.
In fact we don’t even get to see him hanging out with the baddies. That’s a copout in my book. I WANT to see an autistic person as a completely-out-for-himself hit man flashing bling. What better way to demonstrate agency in a crime movie than that? Bring on the sex scenes too. Bring it all.
But since it’s not that kind of movie, my biggest complaint is that we don’t get to see Christian’s inner life. We know he gravitates towards crime because his dad didn’t want him to be weak. But despite some sad backstory about a mentor and an unfulfilled plot with a girl, we still don’t understand quite how he made that switch from assassin to vigilante. And (spoiler!) it pisses me the hell off that he doesn’t get the girl in the end. It looks like it was his choice. He’d just killed somebody. He had to go. But we really do need more portrayals of autistic people in healthy relationships, especially with NTs.
We also know that Christian’s parents got divorced because they were stressed about raising him. Which happens often, but it upsets the autism community when people talk about it. I don’t have an issue with that. But I do have an issue with the fact that we never get to see how Christian feels about it as an adult. All we see is how bitter his brother is.
Still, Christian is way more of a go-getter than most other autistic characters I’ve seen. He’s not a robot either. He has enough concern for other human beings to go out there and kill or die for them. Action movies aren’t known for their character development anyway. Considering the bros these movies are aimed at, making autism cool is a pretty laudable goal.
The technical details were good too. I liked how he kept rearranging his food on his plate. I do that. And the kid lining up the dinosaurs at the end is classic. Christian’s meltdowns as an adult are a bit overblown, but I like that they didn’t shy away from them.
It gets way too cheesy towards the end, though. Camp can be effective at making weird things like autism more digestible for a mainstream audience. But it should be done with a more careful hand than Gavin O’Connor plays. The twist with the voice is cute and means well, but it’s a bit much.
So yeah. The Accountant kind of sucks. But it does open up the field for a more ambitious group of autistic characters. In some ways, Christian’s a good role model. He’s not afraid of the world. He’s confident in his abilities, which include way more than math skills. He’s had a few close friends. He’s still defined mostly by his autism, but compared to characters like the kid in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the titular character in the 2009 film Adam, he’s positively multidimensional.
I think The Accountant could be one of the first mainstream steps toward a new narrative, one that shows autistic people leading developed and fulfilling lives. I hope more movies can come out now that will take that point further.