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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
I am Sam
I am Sam

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


KIRSTY WARK:
No surprise, Mark, this is an Oscar-nominated Hollywood film.

MARK KERMODE:
I think the academy should be ashamed for nominating that performance, Sean Penn, particularly, because he cares about his art.

That's the worst performance I have seen in years. It's this terrible classic, let's take a bit of Forrest Gump, a bit of Rainman and let's give them all these ticks and quirks but let's treat that character not like they're actually somebody with any mental deficiency but let's treat them like they're a seven-year-old.

The central conceit of this film is Sean Penn's character has fathered a child, but throughout the film he's seen as somebody with no sexual urges whatsoever.

He is a seven-year-old being played by Sean Penn in this completely infantile and played in an appallingly patronising manner.

KIRSTY WARK:
Alkarim, the point is it creates an outcome, and we're not allowed to give the outcome away, like a Hollywood fairy tale. Not only is it dishonest, but quite dangerous.

ALKARIM JIVANI:
Is there any question about what the outcome will be? We know what's going to happen at the end. I'm not going to give the ending away. People can judge for themselves.

I spent the whole of my movie wondering why Sean Penn's performance is so camp. It's extraordinarily camp. He's the bastard child of Pee Wee Herman and Graham Norton.

There's a certain gay man who is seen as safe, sexless and completely unthreatening, people like Dale Winton, Brian Dowling out of Big Brother, people like Elton John. That's what they want. This guy was sexless.

KIRSTY WARK:
Germaine?

GERMAINE GREER:
Well, I agree, but I don't think he did father the child. The bun was in the oven when the girl came to the house.

MARK KERMODE:
You may have an ambiguity because you're intelligent. I think the film has no ambiguity because it's stupid.

GERMAINE GREER:
The film is very schematically set up. One of the stupid prejudices it perpetuates about people with autism and educational retardment or difficulties, wherever it is you call it these days is they have no sexuality, that they're pure and safe.

Even though he's autistic, he has five mates. They don't meet to nail each others foreskins to the bread board. They meet to watch video. It's nonsense there is no sexual element in that group and amongst those people.

KIRSTY WARK:
The other thing is we're led to believe by this film that the character, Sam, is encouraged wherever he goes and is very much part of society, yet not a single friend is without learning difficulties.

MARK KERMODE:
It's like a Hollywood theme park version of how these things should be addressed. Here are these cute, cuddly, cut-out characters. Here is the most ridiculously glamorous lawyer to do this case pro-bono.

Even on its own terms, Alkarim said astutely, you never had any doubt about how this film will turn out. It's so badly constructed that the way it finally resolves itself, the plot goes (BLOWS RASPBERRY), it's all finished.

KIRSTY WARK:
There's not a decent woman in this film. Laura Dern to a certain extent. What I mean is it's a dreadful performance, I mean, Michelle Pfeiffer is...

GERMAINE GREER:
It's all hair and high heels.

ALKARIM JIVANI:
But she's a great actress, but there is something good that can be said about this movie. You don't get a crap cover version of All You Need Is Love.

GERMAINE GREER:
One of the things I found misleading, and I've known plenty of children who brought up their parents, and that kid could have brought up that man, except she was a complete icon.

She had no personality. Her image was stroked. She was never... the one moment of intelligence she had is where the kid says. "Why does your father act like a retard," and she says, "Because he is." I thought, this kid gets it. It's not just the bitterness...

MARK KERMODE:
She was like some strange robot clone.

GERMAINE GREER:
Children do raise other children. They do it all over the world. There is one good thing about this film which I think is it tries to bring home to people who think they're doing everything right that there is no such thing. That's a useful lesson.

MARK KERMODE:
There is nothing right in this film.

KIRSTY WARK:
Thank you very much.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Panel
26 Apr 02 | Panel
10 May 02 | Panel
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