out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
I Am Sam
Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4
Sean Penn delivers a powerhouse performance as Sam Dawson, a mentally challenged
man who fights for the right to raise his young daughter. Dawson, who buses
tables at a Los Angeles Starbucks, is left with a newborn when her homeless
mother skips out on them, so he decides to name her Lucy - as in "Lucy in the
Sky With Diamonds" - and raise her by himself. With the help of a kindly
agoraphobic neighbor (Dianne Weist) and four developmentally-disabled friends,
Sam learns how to care for his child, timing bottle feedings to television shows
and patiently reading her the same "green eggs and ham" story over and over
again. But by the age of seven, Lucy (Dakota Fanning) mentally and emotionally
surpasses her father, so a social worker (Loretta Devine) "for the good of the
child" takes Lucy away from Sam and turns her over to a foster-mother (Laura
Dern). Distraught and desperate, Sam turns to a high-powered, self-absorbed
lawyer (Michelle Pfeiffer) who responds to his bureaucratic dilemma only to
prove to her skeptical colleagues that she does occasionally take a pro-bono
case. Predictably, as she befriends Sam, she learns some truths about parenting,
admitting, "I think I've gotten more out of this relationship than you have."
It's "Rain Man" meets "Kramer vs. Kramer" as director Jessie Nelson, who
co-wrote the script with Kristine Johnson, goes overboard with cathartic
political correctness and nostalgic Beatles allusions. But it's Sean Penn's
compassionate, multi-faceted performance as a loving father that makes this film
memorable, along with the natural talent of young Dakota Fanning. On the Granger
Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "I Am Sam" is a shamelessly sugar-coated, sentimental 7.
Get out your handkerchief.
Copyright © 2001 Susan Granger
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