4 Formerly Awesome Film Moments That Are Horribly Awkward Today
3. I Am Sam - Sean Penn "Goes Full Retard"
Sean Penn certainly deserved his Oscar nod for Best Actor for his role as a developmentally disabled man fighting for custody of his seven-year-old daughter. But today the power of retrospect tells us there is something wrong, just plain wrong, about "I Am Sam." Take for instance the following scene: Sam and his entourage of developmentally disabled friends set out to buy his daughter a pair of shoes. It turns out Sam doesn't have enough money. He stammers out an explanation which makes little sense to the embarrassed clerk. The viewer feels a strange invisible force tugging lightly at their hand as it grows magnetically attracted to their forehead. The clerk, played by Brent Spiner ("Star Trek"), can't hide his discomfort with the whole situation. The audience can relate. For some reason, cheerful guitar music plays throughout the whole cringe-making experience, giving us the impression that this is supposed to be a funny scene. It's really just awkward. It's awkward because at the butt of the humor are the characters who the film is supposed to be valorizing. Maybe there's some truth to what Kirk Lazarus says, in an actually funny scene from Tropic Thunder, regarding actor's acting developmentally challenged: "Ask Sean Penn, 2001, I Am Sam. Went full retard, went home empty handed." Maybe Penn should have taken his cues from Tom Hanks, who went half way in Forest Gump and then went home with an Oscar.