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Affleck’s acting advances autism awareness in new film ‘The Accountant’

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'The Accountant' raked in $24.7 million during its debut weekend.

'The Accountant' raked in $24.7 million during its debut weekend.

'The Accountant' raked in $24.7 million during its debut weekend.

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“Do you like puzzles?”

This unique question posed in new crime drama “The Accountant” symbolizes occupational circumstances, family dynamics and social challenges caused by autism.

In the opening flashback, a young autistic boy is at a neuroscience institute with his brother and their concerned parents as they are seeking a psychiatric consultation in 1989. While the adults argue about the best course of action, the boy starts making a 500-piece puzzle – upside down with the plain sides facing upward.

When the final puzzle piece isn’t in the box, the little boy starts yelling and is painfully frustrated that he cannot finish. An unstable young girl with a mental illness of her own sees the missing puzzle piece under the table and calms herself enough to gently hand it to the little boy.

A quarter of a century later, Academy Award winning actor Ben Affleck stars as the now-adult Christian Wolff. As the film’s title suggests, the mathematical genius grew up to become a CPA with a high-functioning form of autism, which allows a narrow focus to finish daunting tasks, such as financial recordkeeping and money laundering for high-profile criminal organizations.

Some of Wolff’s autistic social behaviors include trouble distinguishing jokes, sarcasm and figures of speech from everyday conversations. Wolff is blunt and answers rhetorical questions like “what are the odds of…” with statistical probabilities. Lack of eye contact, self-inflicted pain, trouble making friends and sensitivity to change are other challenges autistic people can struggle with.

“Pitch Perfect” actress Anna Kendrick plays Dana Cummings, a promising junior accountant who notices a fund discrepancy at a multi-million dollar prosthetics company. Wolff’s secret business partner encourages him to take on this high paying case instead of a criminal one, because the FBI and a devoted analyst at the U.S. Department of Treasury are monitoring his alias.

Cummings says it took her months to go through a year’s worth of financial data, while Wolff comprised 15 fiscal-years worth of fraud and conspiracy evidence overnight. With the multi-million dollar company’s dirty secret nearly uncovered, the corporate owner hires an assassin team to kill the two accountants. To the hitmen’s surprise, Wolff has had extensive training in martial arts and sharp-shooting since childhood.

His military father believed if the autistic boy channeled his aggression correctly, then he would overcome sensitivity and social flaws, while his mother wanted to use educational resources to combat autistic mannerisms.

These parenting disagreements led the mother to abandon the boys at a young age. The father then had the boy’s brother serve as Wolff’s training partner and referee when Wolff would beat up school bullies who would taunt him about his differences. The bond between the brothers perfectly captivates how an entire family is affected by one member’s illness. 

Although several modern films pit good-hearted killers against corrupt corporations, “The Accountant” has one of the smartest action movie plots I’ve ever seen. The film’s autism awareness is so intriguing that I watched this crime drama twice during its debut weekend, contributing to the $24.7 million at the box office as of Oct. 16.

The whole movie is a puzzle emphasizing that no matter how different we all are, we each have a series of life choices to make in order to belong and contribute missing puzzle pieces to the world.

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Affleck’s acting advances autism awareness in new film ‘The Accountant’