There are films that people think are good that are so average that they infuriate me even more -- this is one of those films. They anger me like TV psychics anger me. They manipulate people's feelings. They pretend to be about something, but know nothing about the subject they speak about. They are frauds.
This story follows Sam (Sean Penn, DEAD MAN WALKING), a mentally challenged man who fathers a daughter named Lucy (Dakota Fanning, FATHER XMAS). Sam gets help with taking care of her from eccentric hermit Annie Cassell (Diane Wiest, LOST BOYS). Then the evil, uncaring child services come and want to take the child away. In comes big-ticket Beverly Hills lawyer Rita Harrison Williams (Michelle Pfeiffer, WITCHES OF EASTWICK), who finds Sam the perfect case to do pro bono and prove that she isn't a bloodsucking lawyer. For a time Lucy is placed with foster mother Randy Carpenter (Laura Dern, JURASSIC PARK), who seems good for the child, but is portrayed as an insensitive snob.
Did I mention that this film enrages me? First thing that is terrible about this film is that it couldn't simply have one mentally challenged person in Sam to say cute things at the wrong time that it added four mentally challenged friends so they could have quadruple the amount of cute punch lines. Second thing that I hate about this film is Sam's daughter Lucy. She is more mature and self-aware than most fifty year olds I know. To add more to the unrealistic nature of her character you have to remember that a mentally challenged father and a woman who hasn't left her house in 25 years raised her. I don't think the writer of this film has ever been around a 7-year-old in her entire life. The last major (if I listed everything that I hated you'd be reading a book) thing I hate about this film is that all the people who are against Sam are painted as the most unkind and uncaring letches ever. When the bad guy played by Dern has her big turn around I just wanted to scream. It was so bad you would have thought that Dern was playing it for laughs because she knew how melodramatic it was.
This is also one of the most over-produced films I've ever seen. The shaky camera moves, which are meant to make the film feel like a documentary, just make the film more pretentious and artificial.
The only saving grace is the performances. Sean Penn is amazing and Michelle Pfeiffer probably gives one of her best performances. Another good thing about the film is the soundtrack, which is filled with great Beatles covers. The main characters are well developed but considering how bad the story is I'm sure the characterization solely comes from the actors.
I would have loved to see these same characters in a better-written script, but all you get with this film is over sentimental crap. This film was manufactured in utopia where reality doesn't see the light of day. Where good intentions and love are all that a parent needs. Look past how deviously the "bad guys" are portrayed and listen to their point of view. If you do so the whole film falls apart, because you'll side with them.
LEGEND: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1985) (***1/2)Previous Post
MONSTER'S BALL (2001) (***1/2)