Freeheld

freeheldPerhaps all the bad reviews of Freeheld gave me a kinder take on this biopic. It certainly isn’t anyone’s best work. But as biopics go, and diseases of the week go, Freehold stands as a solid film which may have been better suited for Lifetime rather than the box office. Directed by Peter Sollet (Raising Victor Vargas) with screenplay by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, Soldier’s Girl), I honestly expected more from Nyswaner.  Not that it wasn’t tight, it was. But it was also obvious. The outstanding cast raised the bar including Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, and Michael Shannon. Josh Charles fell pretty flat and Steve Carell veered too far into camp in a stereotypical way that didn’t ring authentic to me. Of course there are gay men who call everyone “sweetheart.” But Carell seemed to be overacting through most of his scenes. It’s nearly impossible to compare Moore in Still Alicea disease movie of a different caliber and Carell in The Big Short to anything they did in Freeheld. But when you pull back and imagine Freeheld being on cable television, then it serves its purpose. Freeheld tells the tale of Laurel Hester (Moore), a dedicated female police officer who falls in love with another woman, builds a life with her only to have her time cut short by cancer. The only thing Laurel wants is for her pension to be transferred to her domestic partner, Stacie (Page). Freeheld takes place in 2005, a year after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, but ten years before the momentous Supreme Court decision in 2015 when lesbians and gay men were finally granted equality in marriage. So Laurel and Stacie who aren’t activists in any way – Laurel never comes out at work until after she gets sick, become unlikely poster women for spousal rights. The story of their love and struggle remains hugely powerful. The film should have been as strong. In a year that brought us another lesbian Hollywood film –  the elegant and sophisticated Carol, Freeheld pales in comparison. Still I felt a soft spot for Freeheld. 3 out of 5.

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