Losing Isaiah

After being deposited by his crack-addicted mother (Halle Berry) in a Chicago inner-city garbage can, a baby is adopted by an upscale social worker (Jessica Lange). The natural mother, out of rehab, decides she wants her child back, and a court battle ensues. The highly charged tug-of-war, adapted by Naomi Foner from a novel by Seth Margolis and directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, is certainly given force and distinction by the actors. But lamentably, the PC climate seems to have ensured that the racial questions being debated here would overwhelm the economic ones, and viewers never come close to learning enough about the characters to reach an intelligent verdict on their own. A studio that dared to make such a picture 50 or 60 years ago probably would have come up with a solution unthinkable by today’s standards: the original mother going to work as a cook for the social worker. This is an absorbing and involving picture, but the terms propounded here limit the story, which depends almost entirely on emotions rather than on thought. With David Strathairn, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson. (JR)

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