Director: Peter Sollett

Starring: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, Steve Carell

Year: 2015

Julianne Moore is one of the hardest working actresses in Hollywood, but that hard work doesn’t always pay off.  Too often it’s just quantity, not quality, which is sure to happen when you do 80+ movies in 25 years.  Lost World, Hannibal, Far from Heaven, The Forgotten; some pretty bad stuff, and I have very often called her one of the least talented stalwarts of the industry.  But her more recent work has actually swayed my opinion, as she seems to be making better choices and producing better performances as she ages.  Blindness, The Kids Are All Right, Crazy Stupid Love, Don Jon, Still Alice, Maggie’s Plan; she’s finally blossoming into something believable, and just in time.  In Freeheld, she brings that same momentum, although not as spectacularly as she has been, but still strong enough to earn some applause and some forgiveness for her early career mistakes.

This is the true story of New Jersey police lieutenant Laurel Hester and her battle for equal rights.  Laurel was a lesbian, something she kept to herself for fear that it would keep her from promotions and earn her the malice of her mostly male co-workers.  But when she met Stacie, a younger woman from out of state, their love superseded any concerns about what others might think.  The couple officially became domestic partners, moved into a small house together, and Laurel continued her hard work in the police force.  But a medical concern turned traumatic event would derail the path of this couple’s happiness.  Laurel developed lung cancer, appearing at an advanced stage that most surely meant her death.  Her money, her house, her pension; all of this should go to her partner Stacie, under federal law.  But local jurisdiction stepped in to say that Laurel did not have the same rights as a straight, married woman, a statement that would cause national attention, equal rights marches, and the power of the people to come down on New Jersey politics in a most colossal way.

For a solid true story, so much more could have been done.  The director took the bare bones of the plot, gave the worst lines in history to his actors, and hoped everything would turn out fine.  Well, it didn’t, but because of the director, not because of the actors involved.  Sollett failed to make the film anything other than a simple biopic with a moral message, stifling the talent of his cast until the movie literally had no chance.  It was a bit boring, a bit simple-minded, and never special in the way it had the potential to be.  Moore was pretty great once again, although she is starting to rely too heavily on the emotions surrounding dying and her own ability to cry on cue.  Page was OK, but she’s nothing special, Shannon was super strong, though in a limited role, and Carell was over-the-top, which I guess should be expected.  The side actors were mere caricatures, the film itself dragged a bit, and the result was mediocrity when there was a chance for something much better.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



By ochippie

Writer, Critic, Dad Columbus, Ohio, USA Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Avalanche, Duke Blue Devils