Storytelling only tells half the story; I Am Sam is manipulative, but sweet.

Reviews of the latest films.
Jan. 24 2002 11:40 PM

Welcome to the Suburbs

Todd Solondz's Storytelling only tells half the story; I Am Sam is manipulative as hell, but sweet.

(Continued from Page 1)

There are two relationships at the film's center—the first poignant, the second screwball-comic. Both work beautifully. Penn gets so deep inside this loving simpleton that almost every word he utters to his daughter sounds like a tender lyric, something from "Two of Us" or "Across the Universe." I don't know how such a sour guy can find it in himself to be so fearlessly rhapsodic, but that's one of the mysteries of acting—and Penn is one of the greatest actors alive. Dakota Fanning is an otherworldly gorgeous child, and she gets on Penn's wavelength and holds up her end of the love duets without missing a beat. Pfeiffer is in a different key: Her over-caffeinated rhythms (she's a Tab drinker after my own heart) make it impossible at first for Sam even to penetrate her consciousness, and her exasperated double takes in the face of his plodding literal-mindedness are some of the funniest moments in a movie all year. The rest of the actors (including Richard Schiff and a Picture-of-Dorian-Gray lovely Mary Steenburgen) hit singing notes of their own.

Advertisement

I Am Sam is manipulative as hell; it's too one-dimensional to be a masterpiece. It's also possible that fathers of wonderful little girls named Lucy who frequently regard themselves as "retards" need to be cut some slack here. (I am all of the above.) Just don't believe the anti-hype. There are lots of reasons to have a good cry these days—here's a nice, warm place to get squeezed.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.