I Am Sam | Chicago Reader

I Am Sam

Saturated with candy colors and references to the Beatles and Kramer vs. Kramer, this is a particularly unbelievable fiction about a battle between love and bureaucracy. Sam (Sean Penn) is the single parent of Lucy (Dakota Fanning), and when she turns seven, various authorities decide she should be placed in foster care because her intellect has outstripped his—an observation based mainly on a drawing she's made of a tiny man dragging a much larger girl by the hand. A harried lawyer (Michelle Pfeiffer) with parenting problems of her own tries to help Sam get his daughter back. It's a heart-tugging scenario undermined by a striking hypocrisy: obscuring a hot-button issue in casting, some actors with Down's syndrome have minor roles, while Penn plays the lead—and chews the scenery. Written by Kristine Johnson and director Jessie Nelson. 125 min.

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