Tag Archives: I am Sam

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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