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The Independent Critic

Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning
Jessie Nelson
Jessie Nelson, Kristine Johnson
Rated PG-13
132 Mins.
New Line
 "I Am Sam" Review 

I enjoyed this film much more than I expected. I'd read the reviews, including several that were quite negative about Sean Penn's performance. I didn't really expect to enjoy his performance either...I simply thought this type of role would be beyond his range. Yet, I largely founding myself enjoying this film. First, Penn's performance deserved the Oscar nomination. The voice, while initially irritating, fit well with his character and his intellectual limitations.

Penn wonderfully portrayed his relationship with his daughter, beautifully played by Dakota Fanning. Beyond Penn, she was the real find in this film. While not always realistic, I appreciated that the script did not always go for the easy answer.

The end, in particular was unrealistic yet satisfying in a certain way. I liked that the custody issue was not resolved as a "he gets her, he doesn't get her." In reality, both parent and child ended up having needs addressed. Certainly, the system does not usually work this successfully but I was willing to fantasize a happy ending in this manner.

My main beef with this film was in the performance of Michelle Pfeiffer...She had wonderful moments, but was disturbingly inconsistent with the emotions, energy and pacing of the rest of the film and its characters. Nice direction, generally, by Jessie Nelson. An interesting soundtrack, at times not successful in accompanying the film's action but generally a nice addition to the film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic