I Am Sam (2001)

(On TV, February 2015)  Am I allowed to say that I really disliked I Am Sam?  It’s not as if I’m going to deny its strengths: it’s got an Oscar-calibre performance by Sean Penn at its heart, as he portrays a mentally-challenged man caring for a daughter who’s becoming perceptibly smarter than him.  Legal complications ensue.  Having seen Penn at work elsewhere, this is a fantastic chameleon-like performance that rings true to the character being portrayed.  But it’s in service of a film that’s unabashedly manipulative, even as it presents a heart-breaking premise with no satisfying way out.  It doesn’t help that the film is very, very long and wallows in the misery it creates.  Michelle Pfeiffer brings some interest back in the film when she enters it as a fire-breathing high-powered lawyer, but she’s soon subdued in mawkish sentiments and character development.  To his credit, writer/director Jesse Nelson knows exactly what kind of film she’s making, and she hits her own targets with a decent amount of skill.  It’s really my fault that I wasn’t receptive to the material, and increasingly antsy to make it sane to the end credits.  I did a considerable amount of writing during I Am Sam, which at least helped me deal with my reviews backlog. 

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