'I Am Sam' Review By B. Alan Orange
What a day, when you can look it in the face and hold your vomit.
"We're bangin' sh*t retarded!"
What a day, when you can look it in the face and hold your vomit. Evicted from my apartment on Christmas Eve, fired from my night job, and then unmercifully forced into another goddamned retard movie against my own free will: The only Merry Christmas rests in a flask full of cranberry vodka locked inside my left-hand cargo pocket (Thanks, Wanita!).
I needed gulps of burning 80-proof to shoot me through the other side of this weepy mess. I'm ashamed of the girl sitting next to me at the screening. She "ooh'd" and "aah'd" at the expected performance being turned out by Sean Penn, tears dripping down her warmed cheek upon sight of the film's extracted, banal emotions. She'd bought into I Am Sam's transparent hyper-reality. Yet, when Brad Alan Silverman (a reatrded actor appearing in the film) all but stole the show with a few precious moments, real moments, the same girl laughed in embarrassment. She almost had to look away from the screen, unable to confront her own shy prejudices. That alone makes the film's case: It's an unbelievable fantasy in a world of trained ticks and mannerisms. Imagine if they'd cast Silverman in the Penn role. A lot of people would have a very hard time watching Sam's scripted drama. I doubt they'd feel the same way upon exit.
Brad Silverman pulls off an amazing feat. He makes one of the greatest cinematic thespians of our time look like a bad actor. It's a credit to the filmmakers that they cast a man who has Down syndrome in a fairly prominent role. It also rides as the film's one major downfall. When you stand Brad next to Sean Penn, it becomes painfully obvious that Penn is "just" mimicking observed behavior. His "retard" face looks like a ballistic DeNiro about to bitch slap those seated around him. Watch the scene where Michelle Pfeiffer dresses Penn in one of her husband's suits. She drapes her arms around his neck, securing the tie. There's an awkward pause, she eyes him with what could only be described as a lustful gaze. The man does look mighty handsome in those borrowed clothes. Now, erase that whole six-minute attempt at pinkie-flicking heartstrings. Fire Penn and bring in Silverman. There's no possible way the film would or could play against the same seat of passion. I guess Hollywood feels most audience members aren't ready to handle the authenticity of placing a handicapable person in a handicapped lead role.
I couldn't help but watch the entire movie this way. For it's length, I kept imagining Silverman in the Sam Dawson role. It would have played more poignant; tougher to watch, emotionally. The audience would have been polarized in its feelings about the outcome of the court case. Sam Dawson is a "mentally challenged" (as the PC press notes confirm) man trying to retain custody of his 7-year-old daughter, who is already smarter than he is. Near the end, when he is put on the stand to testify his reasoning, he recites lines of dialogue from Kramer vs. Kramer, forgetting why he's there. I've worked with members of ARC. When they get something set in their brain, they don't easily forget it. Most often, they repeat it excessively. As it stands, like most of the film, the Kramer vs. Kramer scene is a contrivance. It adds a level of stupidity that shouldn't normally be there.
I'm not sure what this movie is. The only word I can come up with is "wrong." At every dip and turn, it grinds at being a plastic facade as rude as sporting black-face. The sensitive creatures seem hard-pressed to give-up this type of entertainment. A movie like I Am Sam is at the heels, nipping for Oscar consideration. It plays into the types of films that usually garner award recognition. I can't venture a guess as to why, it's a step removed from being genuinely human.
The story line isn't bad. It's quite interesting. The film as a construct in whole is above any moment found in John Leguizamo's floundering King of the Jungle. Sam is well meaning, it just has a problem escaping its blown-out theatrics. If you're truly interested in this type of subject matter, you'd be better off renting a doc*mentary on parenting and the mentally handicapped. Check one out from the library, it's free. They're there, I know. I saw them.
As it stands, I'm left with but a laugh stuck in my throat. "Ha, ha, ha. He fell on the cake. What a card." The only reason to willingly enter this Dragon is to check out 7-year-old Dakota Fanning. She holds her own quite nicely amongst her hard-driven peers. She's why I'd recommend the movie, even though I'm not. It'll play pretty funny on the floor of a cheap hotel, watched out of one whiskey soaked eye, which is how I'm writing this review.
Payless Shoe Source
I've just willingly defied the logic of your impending ticket purchase. If you visit any of the above institutions, I've tripled that notion ten fold. I've got my fingers crossed. I sure hope something good happens soon. Retarded, indeed.