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I Am Sam

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: I Am Sam

Starring: Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Jessie Nelson
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 133 Minutes
Release Date: January 2002
Genre: Drama




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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