I Am Sam

I Am Sam

4.7 23
Director: Jessie Nelson, Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning

Cast: Jessie Nelson, Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning

     
 

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Sean Penn stars in this drama as Sam Dawson, a developmentally disabled adult who has been working at a coffee shop and raising his daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning) for seven years. Sam receives help in his parenting duties from a circle of trusted confidantes, including his ADD-afflicted best friend Ifty (Doug Hutchison), the paranoid Robert (Stanley DeSantis), an

Overview

Sean Penn stars in this drama as Sam Dawson, a developmentally disabled adult who has been working at a coffee shop and raising his daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning) for seven years. Sam receives help in his parenting duties from a circle of trusted confidantes, including his ADD-afflicted best friend Ifty (Doug Hutchison), the paranoid Robert (Stanley DeSantis), an agoraphobic neighbor (Dianne Wiest), and his other disabled pals, Brad and Joe (played by real-life developmentally challenged actors Brad Silverman and Joseph Rosenberg). Although he provides a structured and loving environment for Lucy that includes regular visits to IHOP, video nights, and karaoke, Sam's daughter is beginning to surpass him in mental acuity. When Lucy begins intentionally stunting her own growth so as not to hurt her beloved father, social worker Margaret (Loretta Devine) takes action, removing the girl from her home and placing her in the temporary care of a foster mother, Randy (Laura Dern). As the day of his hearing looms, Sam seeks out the aid of driven, obsessive lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), who takes the case only to prove to her colleagues that she is willing to accept pro bono work. Opposed by county lawyer Turner (Richard Schiff) in court, Rita gradually comes to care for her client and his daughter, even as they force her to consider the limitations of her own abilities as a parent. The soundtrack for I Am Sam (2001) gained considerable critical attention, consisting entirely of Beatles cover songs by such contemporary artists as The Black Crowes, Eddie Vedder, the Wallflowers, and Aimee Mann, among others.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Chalk up another virtuoso performance for Sean Penn, whose remarkable portrayal of a developmentally challenged father waging a custody fight makes this potentially mawkish drama a must-see movie. His Sam Dawson is a good-natured, Beatles-obsessed Starbucks clerk with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. When it becomes apparent that his young daughter, Lucy (played by adorable newcomer Dakota Fanning), is deliberately stunting her intellectual development so he can keep up with her, social workers take the girl away from him. Michelle Pfeiffer, whose own first-rate performance is regrettably overshadowed by Penn’s, plays a hard-charging lawyer shamed into representing Sam on a pro bono basis when he elects to challenge the system. Director Jessie Nelson (Corrina, Corrina), who also coauthored the screenplay, labors mightily to keep the Establishment types from seeming like black-hearted villains, and he allots ample footage to Pfeiffer’s character, who has an epiphany while defending the loving father and realizes that, for all his shortcomings, he possesses qualities she lacks as a parent. Nelson also keeps Sam’s numerous misadventures from becoming buffoonish or diminishing the severity of his dilemma. Penn plays this role with all the intensity and commitment his fans have come to expect, and thanks largely to him, I Am Sam is a touching, unforgettable film. Nelson supplies a feature-length commentary for the DVD, which also includes an original documentary, Becoming Sam, deleted scenes, alternate takes, and a theatrical trailer.
All Movie Guide - Karl Williams
For a film that's waterlogged in bathos, it features a brilliant performance from the ever-versatile and surprising Sean Penn, who is a shocker not just for the technical achievement of his role but for the warmth he injects into it. Maybe it's real-life fatherhood, but the actor exhibits a depth of soul previously absent from his already stellar work, putting him into a league where he could conceivably play just about anyone. On the whole, however, the project comes up short, gorging itself on sentiment, its calculatedly twee preciousness finally overwhelming one's desire to like it. There is a dissonance here between the great acting of Penn, Dianne Wiest, and young Dakota Fanning, who display Oscar-caliber talents, and the style and tone of director Jessie Nelson, whose craft employs all of the nuance and grace of a Lifetime Original Movie. That's not to say that the film lacks emotional impact, but the obviousness and desperation of the filmmakers' manipulation provoke tears that are not cathartic, but bitter and resentful. Serious questions are asked, but never really answered, and the weary civil servants who ask them in an effort to do their important jobs are treated as heavies. Michelle Pfeiffer is handed a one-note role, her problematic husband is never even glimpsed, robbing her of the sort of conflict necessary to reveal more about her character. The director's predilection for handheld camera work, presumably to impart upon the viewer a sense of the protagonist's confused disorientation, only serves to leave the film's cross-eyed audience reaching for the Dramamine when combined with the director's taste for numerous close-ups. And audiences will likely be split on the use of developmentally disabled characters to serve as a literal comic relief peanut gallery. The production team has attempted to dodge any criticism of this hackneyed ploy by utilizing real-life developmentally challenged actors in some of these supporting roles, but it doesn't mean that the way they're presented by the script is any less exploitative. The subtlety born of good taste would have gone a long way toward making I Am Sam a more worthy, meaningful, and memorable effort.
New York Post

It works magic because of Penn, who disappears into the character so thoroughly that even Dustin Hoffman ... would be jealous. Lou Lumenick
New York Observer - Rex Reed
Another spectacular workout by the versatile and indefatigable Sean Penn saves the sudsy I Am Sam from the rinse cycle.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/14/2003
UPC:
0794043553530
Original Release:
2001
Rating:
PG13
Source:
New Line Home Video

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sean Penn Sam Dawson
Michelle Pfeiffer Rita Harrison
Dakota Fanning Lucy
Dianne Wiest Annie
Loretta Devine Margaret Calgrove
Richard Schiff Turner
Laura Dern Randy Carpenter
Brad Silverman Brad
Joseph Rosenberg Joe
Stanley de Santis Robert
Doug Hutchison Ifty
Mary Steenburgen Actor
Caroline Keenan Actor
Chase Mackenzie Bebak Actor
Mason Lucero Actor
Scott Paulin Actor

Technical Credits
Jessie Nelson Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Mary Gail Artz Casting
Douglas Axtell Sound/Sound Designer
Lisa Campbell Associate Producer,Asst. Director
Richard Chew Editor
Erin Cochran Art Director
Barbara Cohen Casting
Elliot Davis Cinematographer
Michael De Luca Executive Producer
Susie de Santo Costumes/Costume Designer
Jennifer Gentile Set Decoration/Design
Stephanie J. Gordon Set Decoration/Design
Barbara Hall Co-producer
Marshall Herskovitz Producer
Kristine Johnson Screenwriter
Aaron Osborne Production Designer
Claire Rudnick Polstein Executive Producer
John Powell Score Composer
Glenn Rivers Set Decoration/Design
David Scott Rubin Executive Producer
Richard Solomon Producer
Edward Zwick Producer

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I Am Sam 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great film. It is my favorite film and it made me cry when I watched it so many times. The cast is so incredible and talented. The best movie ever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't know how anyone could not like this movie it is fabulouse. Sean penn and michelle pypher are incredible. But the performance that i admired the most was Dakoda Fannings. For such a small child she has already achieved more than i have.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sean pen is at his best folks! This movie has such a great c ast, screanplay,and story. every body should see this!
Lowc More than 1 year ago
What an amazing story. Sean Penn's performance is stunning as Sam as is Michelle Pfeiffer's. The movie raises excellent questions about what it takes to be a good parent in all senses of the word.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of very few films made that my whole family could watch and thoroughly enjoy together. Absolutely great film!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Absolutely Amazing...a definite ''feel good'' movie
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't imagine a soul who would not get something meaningful out of this film or at the very least, lose themselves in the enjoyment of watching a delightful relationship between a father and his daughter. For you fiesty viewers, there's enough tension here to keep you ticked off and at the edge of your seats, so relax...it's not sappy. I've always considered Sean Penn an amazing actor and this film is further confirmation. He never allows his performance to deteriorate into the usual attitude by other actors of ''Don't-bother-me-I'm-trying-to-get-an-award-here!'' As he says to his attorney in the film, played by Michelle Pfieffer, ''I need you to believe in me.'' Believe me, you can.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never has a movie affected me as this one did. I actually saw it 7 times and each time I discovered something new. It is an outstanding movie that anyone can see. I highly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I CHALLENGE YOU TO WATCH THIS FILM AND NOT WALK AWAY AMAZED ON IT'S BEAUTY AND HEART TOUCHING PERFERMANCES BUY THE CAST. I MUST SAY IT IS GOT TO BE THE MOST WONDERFUL FILMS I HAVE EVERY SEEN. ALL I CAN SAY IS THANK YOU. SEAN PENN PUTS ACTING INTO A NEW LEAGUE, HIS PERFORMANCE IS INSPIRING AND MICHELLE IS BRILLIANT AS RITA.IN THIS FILM THERE ARE SO MANY MESSAGES THAT COME OUT, HOW SOCIETY COMPLICATES DISABILITY, AN INSIGHT ON SOMEONES LIFE WITH A DISABILITY, THE POWER THAT LOVE CAN HAVE ON A PERSON'S PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE. DEKOTA FANNING IS AN UP AND COMMING ACTRESS, AND GIVEN HER PERFORMANCE AS LUCY SHE WILL B A STAR OF THE FUTURE.I WILL DEFINATELY BE BUYING THIS FILM.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would recomend this movie to anyone.This movie has souch a touching scean, it made me and my friend laugh and it also made me cry and I never cry but really it is a touching story they should make more of these movies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not been a great fan of Sean Penn, but his performance in this movie absolutely blew me away. He made it so totally believable and Michelle Pfieffer did a remarkable job in her part as well! Wow!!! It reflected all the feelings a great movie needs to move a person...and I just loved it! Get your tissue ready and be prepared to laugh and smile , too! Awesome movie!
luvsbritdrama More than 1 year ago
This is a movie that I had overlooked because of an aversion to Sean Penn. However, I am so very glad I took a friend's advice and ordered the DVD for myself. I showed it at a gathering of the Senior Adults at our church and all of them were so moved and impressed by the film. With the exception of some language, I do love this film. It could have been "hokey" but the acting of Penn was "spot on".
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am Sam is a super extraordinary movie that everyone should see at least three times. I am Sam was very well produced and contained a deep theme that can definitly be applied to everyone's life. This great movie ultimately shows how ''normal'' people take their stable lives for granted, and how ''special people'' live their lives the best they can and strive harder than anyone else to accomplish their goals. The main character in the movie Sam, was portrayed as being mentally ill or retarded. Sam had a daughter and raised her lovingly and with special attention until she was seven years old. At the age of seven Sam's daughter, Lucy, was taken away from him because family services felt that he was no longer able to support her academically and emotionally. Sam did not give up without a fight, and hired a lawyer. Sam eventually got custody of his daughter back and was able to show her how much he loved her. However, the lawyer he had hired got more out of the relationship with Sam than he did. The lawyer learned how much Lucy meant to Sam, and realized how she had been neglecting her son. This realization made the lawyer value her son more and also improved her life. In the movie, Sam was determined to get his daughter back because he loved her. He did not let his impairment hinder him from what he wanted most. Moreover, some ''normal'' people would not even take the iniative to do what Sam did. Sam did not give up his fight even when the odds were against him. I only wish that I have enough courage in the face of dilema to do what Sam did. I am Sam is a remarkable book. I love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh my goodness, I saw this movie for the first time last night and it was an amazing movie! I cried, I laughed, cried some more. I really wasn't expecting it to be a deep movie but it caught me off guard and was actually quite amazing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
ESPECIALLY IN KOREA, THERE'S REALLY NOBODY LIVE LIKE SAM WITH ANY KIND OF PSYCOLOGICAL DISABILITIES. I MEAN, JUST IN MY OPINION, I THOUGHT AT LEAST SAM WHO WAS BORN AS AN AMERICAN WAS LITTLE LUCKY TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD AS HE COULD BE SUPPORTED BY AMERICAN'S WELFARE SYSTEM LIKE THE GIRL HAD TO BE ADOPTED BY GOVERNMENT. WE EVEN CAN'T THINK ABOUT THAT.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is the kind of movie you WANT your children to watch. It has GREAT acting and a top notch story line.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed the movie 'I am Sam.' I think that Sean Penn did a great job, and Dakota Fanning has started out right. I think that we will be seeing alot more her. This movie made me laugh at times and cry at times. I highly recomend it!
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