I Am Sam
On several occasions, I have used the metaphor of directors sticking their arms up my ass and working me like a puppet in their ham-handed efforts at emotional manipulation. Congratulations to director Jessie ("The Story of Us") Nelson. She's achieved a first. She not only stuck her hand up my sphincter but did it with such force that she left enough room for her entire schlock-addicted family to move in. Say hello to my colon, you tear-jerking fascists.
For Nelson's next movie, she'll be doing a cross between "Oliver" and "A Civil Action" in which a bunch of orphans get cancer from their drinking water. One by one, they testify in court while in tears. They describe how their puppies have died. Ben Kingsley plays their tireless defense lawyer. Each of them is between three and six years old and has eyes the size of saucers. This movie will be three-and-a-half hours long. Incidentally, I will write the review from prison -- I took a date to "I Am Sam", and she filed charges.
"I Am Sam" is about a developmentally challenged man named Sam Dawson (Sean Penn) whose normal daughter, Lucy (Dakota Fanning) is taken away by the courts. With the help of selfish lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), Sam fights to get Lucy back.
How could I have hated this film more? The women sitting behind me could have taken turns kicking me in the back of the head, creating a welt that eventually filled with blood and exploded, rendering me technically brain-dead, but somehow conscious. The theater chain, recognizing my contributions to film criticism, could have then offered to pay for my life support by keeping me in the theater on a ventilator and forcing me to watch "I Am Sam" for the rest of my waking life, which I would then attempt to end mercifully by waiting until late at night (after the amorous janitor had gone home), rolling myself off my gurney onto the floor and, picking up a stray golf pencil with my one functioning eyelid, JAMMING IT THROUGH MY EYE SOCKET AND INTO MY FRONTAL LOBE AGAIN AND AGAIN OH THANK YOU GOD FOR THE SWEET RELEASE OF DEATH.
Let me just say that I do not advocate severely developmentally challenged folks becoming parents, a situation which probably requires government intervention. It's essentially child endangerment. That being said, we should also force normal people to take parenting classes before they are able to have children. You should have to get a license for it, just like you get to drive. Parenting is infinitely harder than driving. The logic being used in this movie is that because regular people can be such bad parents, we ought to let people with acute mental dysfunction give it a whirl. That logic works well in nuclear physics too. ("Hey, Al, I can't seem to split these atoms. Ask Bob the janitor if he'd like to take a crack at it. He can't do any worse than I am.")
And thanks, I got the message about how Lucy was a healthy, happy child and Rita's kid was miserable because Rita and her husband sucked as parents. Lucy is what we call a cinematic puppeteer's wet dream, a 7-year-old archetype of precocious wisdom which simply does not exist. She knows what she wants. When the court asks her, she responds, "All you need is love," a line of dialogue so unbelievably bad, it's a wonder it didn't reach up to Heaven and inspire God to destroy all of humankind in a single apocalyptic rebuke for our wasted potential. You're trying to tell me a normal child would happily do her show-and-tell while Daddy sits in class making noises? I say she's on the first bus to Fosterparentland faster than you can say "recess." That would be the happiest kid to see social workers in the history of modern child care.
I asked several people in the audience this question as they were coming out of the theater: "What did you like about the film?"
Their answer: "I liked it when the 'tards were funny."
Okay, maybe they didn't say that verbatim, but that's what every person in the audience was thinking. Sam has a group of funny developmentally challenged friends, several of whom are not played by actual developmentally challenged people. At my screening, their antics tended to make middle-aged women with below-average IQs giggle a lot. I really don't want to know the social ramifications of this, but these women should not be reproducing either.
You may notice that the soundtrack is full of Beatles' cover tunes, which is the filmmaker's way of saying, "When this film sucks so bad people are running from the theater like their genitals have been set on fire, we hope to sell some albums at kiosks next to the exits." What else does the film have? It has Diane Wiest as Sam's eccentric neighbor who hasn't come out of her apartment for 25 years, but makes the trip to court to testify on Sam's behalf. It has that one moment, when Pfeiffer sees Sean Penn in a three-piece suit, that you see the message flash over her eyes like a breaking news alert: "I'd do this guy if he didn't have the mental capacity of a 7-year-old." If you have any self-respect at all as a moviegoer, that's your moment to remove your entire upper palate by ramming your head through the armrest.
If there's been a torture this severe since the Inquisition, I don't know what it is. Had I the opportunity, I would have fitted the entire Chinese army with steel soccer cleats and let them march over my unfurled penis if it meant that I could have left the theater even one second earlier than the end of this horrific, manipulative, shameless piece of universal cosmic dung.
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