I Am Sam (2001)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBB

USA, 2001.  New Line Cinema, Avery Pix, The Bedford Falls Company, Red Fish Blue Fish Films.  Screenplay by , Jessie Nelson.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Sean Penn plays a mentally challenged Starbucks employee who winds up with a baby daughter and has to take care of her. When the child reaches the age of seven, Penn finds himself in a courtroom defending his right to raise the girl even though he is of relatively equal mental capacity himself. Michelle Pfeiffer gives her best performance since The Age Of Innocence as the reluctant lawyer who takes Penn on in order to prove to her friends that she is perfectly willing to do pro bono cases. This touching family drama that liberally borrows plot elements from Kramer Vs. Kramer and Rain Man (and then quotes them as if to justify it) benefits from an unsentimental director and a very intellectual performance by child actor , who proves that blond, blue-eyed children don’t have to be annoying. Also blessed by perfect cameo roles by Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen and a very powerful Laura Dern, the film owes much to its performances and intelligent script, but it’s too long and entirely predictable even in its most powerful moments.

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Actor (Sean Penn)

Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations:  Best Actor (Sean Penn); Best Supporting Actress (Dakota Fanning)

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