Beatles, Blondes and Boxing: Against the Ropes and I am Sam

Boxing movies and legal dramas have long been a staple of the cinema. From Fat City and The Set-Up to 12 Angry Men and The Verdict, audiences love to see an underdog triumph, whether in the squared circle or the court room.
Jackies Outrageous FashionsMeg Ryan doesn’t land any punches in boxing biopic Against the Ropes, though her character is at times a raging blonde. A mess of a melodrama, Against the Ropes is brazen enough to bill itself as inspired by the story of Jackie Kallen, a journalist and mother of two, who became the first female manager in the dog eat dog world of professional boxing.
Meg Ryan (Jackie)Played here as a modern-day single female and PR lackey, Jackie is a ball of furious ambition, who quits her job to manage rookie boxer “Lethal” Luther Shaw. Brushing aside mobbed-up promoters and opponents alike, Luther proceeds to tear through the undercards to title contention in just 15 minutes of carefully choreographed screen time.
Kallens GymMeg, dressed like Barbarella and affecting a ludicrous, husky mid west accent, is a knockout to look at, but her performance is as phoney as a fixed fight. After having its release date delayed by almost two years, Against the Ropes bombed at the box office in 2004. Watching it again I felt like I’d taken as much punishment as the pugilists.
I am SamAfter Against the Ropes left me on the canvas, I am Sam backed me into a corner, mainly because I’m a sucker for a tearjerker. It may be too saccharine for some, but I am Sam does boast Laura Dern, Dakota Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer and Dianne Wiest giving fantastic and under-appreciated performances.
Penn and PfeifferSean Penn plays the eponymous Sam, a Beatles-loving, single father with a mental age of 7, fighting against the social system for custody of his 7-year-old daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning). In his corner we find highly-strung, uber lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), taking the case on a pro bono basis, to prove to her colleagues that she’s more than just a PR-hungry, morally questionable, Porsche-driving schyster
High Kicking RitaPenn managed to secure the Oscar nomination, but how is it that an equally brilliant turn from Pfeiffer was completely ignored? Where Meg Ryan, was in full, head-turning, ultra-glossy mode in Against the Ropes, Michelle played Rita with quiet gusto and the mettle of a woman who won’t pull any punches, even kicking down a door while wearing a pair of high-heeled, suede boots.
Rita and LennonStill Oscarless, her Rita Harrison could have been a contender, but so could Jackie Kallen, whose blend of confidence and cleavage would have been a perfect fit for Michelle. Ryan struts her stuff, Erin Brockovich-style, but as the bell rings time on these rival representations of perfectly coiffured, over-caffeinated, career women, Meg is left wobbling like a punch-drunk boxer!

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Beatles, Blondes and Boxing: Against the Ropes and I am Sam

  1. I remember Against the Ropes coming out and thinking how “untypical” of Meg Ryan the movie was – have been meaning to see it since then.
    I never realised that was Dakota Fanning in I am Sam. I do, however, remember Michelle Pfeiffer being great!
    As always, a great post!

  2. I agree, Paul. I loved ‘I am Sam’ and thought Sean did a great job. But why Pfeiffer was ignored, go figure. I remember thinking what a brilliant find Dakota Fanning was as a child star. I thought of her in lines with Natalie Portman. I’m still waiting for the Fanning adult break out role.

  3. Great post 🙂 I remember seeing these two films, but oddly enough, I can’t remember a thing about them. Nevertheless, I did see them. I love it that you mentioned Fat City in this blog post, which was shown on Moviedrome back in the day (I read the moviedrome guide from a website back in 2012 and that is how I found out) 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

  4. Hey! how could you meaning a plot about Meg Ryan´s wardrobe dressing was ludicrous? What´s going on about this site? It sounds further cajoling Michelle Pfeiffer and slaughting Meg Ryan! What´s going with this crowd at last years used to be loved destroy Meg´s morality? You plot is deadly wrong, I never seen in this movie so many sexier Meg´s wardrobe and neither was “pony acting” It was one of less Meg Ryan´s poignant acting,..brave,imponnence ,balanced and a tasteful sensation to see Meg as these kind of roles ….everbody just wants Meg Ryan as”cheesy, clumsy frail and weepy-candied woman….but EVERYBODY is WRONG! I´d rather see Meg Ryan as brave, stately concealed-whore or hottie pranky-girl balanced behavior …That´s way as can see a truly Meg Ryan

  5. Wonderful post, Paul. I forgot about Against the Ropes but I do remember Meg’s character being suppressed by masculine energy in the film, she takes a lot of insults which is a bit demeaning. Goes to show you a woman in a man’s world. Her outfits… goodness. A major detour from her older films, no doubt. I love I am Sam and I think Michelle was super lovely there. She was greatly overlooked, but Sean Penn tends to do that to his co-stars. Love your dedication to those two. Keep it up!

  6. By the way, love the new blog look!

  7. Great post 🙂 Although this probably sounds like a tricky question, If you were ever going to do a blog post on the Michelle Pfeiffer comedy Married to the Mob, which Meg Ryan would you talk about on the side? Regards 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

  8. Great post as usual Paul. Michelle’s performance in “I am Sam,” is easily one of the best in recent memory. Meg Ryan should have watched that and learned how to act.

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