Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I am Sam. D-

Sean Penn is really good at giving great performances that define a film. But he's also really good at giving terrible performances that aren't necessarily his fault. Too bad, his work in I am Sam fits the latter even more than his performance in the abysmal remake of All the Kings Men. I consider Sean Penn to be an excellent actor, and his work in Mystic River is one of the reasons I consider it one of my favorite movies. But it's slightly ironic that he's the star in two of my most hated films: All the Kings Men and this. From its pop soundtrack filled with Beatles covers, to its big cast and its manipulative screenplay, I am Sam is clearly a product of big studio Hollywood. Watching it is like having too much sugar in your coffee, too much syrup on your pancakes, and too much thick frosting on your cake. And not only is the movie unbearably cloying and sentimental, but it takes a stance that I could never agree with. The basic idea is that a man with the mental capacity of a seven year old goes to court trying to win back his young daughter. The argument for the defense is that a father's love is the most important thing in deciding who should have custody of the child. Sam clearly has great love for his daughter (as the movie shows over, and over, and over again), so that means he should have custody of her, right? That's what the movie is trying to get us to think. But the opposition in the case argues that Sam's daughter will soon be smarter than he is. That he will not be able to give her proper care and instruction when she needs it. No matter what the movie tries to make you think, the so called 'enemy' of the story is the right side. I think if a mentally disabled man has a daughter, he should be able to visit her on a weekly basis. But the last thing he should be able to do is live with her. What if she got hurt? Based on Sam's actions, we don't know if he would be able to call 911. Penn's performance isn't bad in the sense that he can't act like a mentally disabled person. He does it with utter conviction. The problem here is that his character is incapable of showing any real human traits, with the exception of love. So the script takes advantage of that and preaches love repeatedly.

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