Monday, October 26, 2015

Freeheld (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Freeheld"  by Peter Sollett and based on Cynthia Wade's 2007 documentary of the same name, is a vital story about pension rights granted to same sex couples, regardless of whether they are married.

The story concerns Laurel Hester, an Ocean City, New Jersey police officer and her fight to transfer her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree. As a true life story, it is a matter of respect and equality, as poignant as it is powerful. As a feature film however, it plays like a Lifetime    TV network movie.

Julianne Moore is solidly believable as Hester. She is tough without being coarse, direct yet sensitive. On her beat, she oversees a drug deal and is struck on the head.  Hester still gets her man.

At a volleyball game, she meets Stacie, a nonchalant and laconic young lady. The two develop a rapport. During an amusement park date, after fending off three muggers, they kiss. Both of them, presumably, are attracted to what the other possesses.

Moore perfectly embodies Hester. Ellen Page, although physically resembling Andree, feels too much like the actor Ellen Page, in her usual round-eyed looks and passive expression.

Hester and Andree cuddle and spoon often but beyond that, not much is revealed. Who are they as a couple and what makes them unique? There is not much here.

During a romantic evening, Hester feels a pain. A pulled muscle. She goes to the doctor, calling back before a party.


As if by rote we see the usual progression: a saddened police department and forced smiles followed by support.

But then the bombshell. Hester's working partner Wells (Michael Shannon) visits her and discovers Stacie is her girlfriend. He is upset and beside himself, but swallows his ego.

By the very next scene, all is accepted. Hester wishes  her pension transfered to her girlfriend, Stacie Andree. The office is dumbfounded.

A sensitive Wells as portrayed by Shannon has some energy here. The actor has some cutting lines for his homophobic co-workers.

But then Steve Carell appears as the earnest but lighthearted founder of Garden State Equality, and plays his scene for fun punchlines, waving his arms and hamming it up. He comes off a bit too silly.

There is a good story here. But it remains stuck in a melodrama of molasses, in its stock roles, without venturing into vivacity or celebration.

By midway we are given tearful hospital scenes and hearings and the usual bigotry from the freeholders without any contemplative variation.

Every character is either morose or resolute, with little introspection or variety in emotion.

Yes, the freeholders are backward. Of course, Steven, Stacie and Wells are doing the right, positive and just thing. But as a narrative film, all of these actions beg for more.

Though it is most definately an arresting subject with Julianne Moore doing her best, "Freehold" feels held back, serialized into a somber soap opera and leaves one underwhelmed.

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