Freeheld

star2star2star2

This wasn’t an intentional pairing so close to The Danish Girl, but it certainly is an interesting companion piece. Both are real stories of the genesis of change in society, but at very different points in history. In this case, a much more recent, barely 10 years, shift. If you don’t know the story, just watch the film. It is a wonderful, and not overly sappy, depiction of a couple and their challenges expertly played by Julianne Moore (Hunger Games) and Ellen Page (Juno).

Moore is always a joy to watch on screen, coming across believably regardless of the role. This isn’t new territory for her, however. She provides her trademark “strong woman in the face of adversity” a la Still Alice. It is still a unique performance, not a copy of her other work, but it is comfortable ground for her. Page, on the other hand, who’s trademark is the quick-witted, fast talking, vulnerable but tough young woman really does something new. In this story she is a contained ball of energy and emotion, moving and speaking slowly, but clearly bottled up, holding back a torrent of emotion and thought. The two, together, take over the screen and balance each other well.

Forming up around them are a host of recognizable faces. Michael Shannon (99 Homes) as a somewhat simplified, but effective police partner for Moore, works well. But Steve Carell (The Big Short), as the outside activist, was only marginally believable for me. It isn’t that he isn’t accurate, I’ve known many people like his character, but that doesn’t make it credible on screen; an odd conundrum of story-telling is that believability sometimes has to trump truth. Other notables in the cast are Josh Charles (Masters of Sex) and Dennis Boutsikaris (Batteries Not Included), if for no other reason than I enjoy their work.

This is a very effectively emotionally told story. Much like The Danish Girl, it focuses on the couple involved more than the specifics of the challenges. The driving needs are clearly internal rather than intentionally challenging to society, regardless of their ultimate reach and effect. There is just enough scope to give you a full picture, but not so much that it loses focus, which is good given the amount of time the story has to cover. But, as good as the film is, it does get a bit of that Hallmark film feel to it in look and sensibility. For some, that will be a plus and, honestly, others may disagree. It isn’t even necessarily a detriment given the story, but it echoed in my head that way and is part of why I couldn’t list this as a 4 star flick. Unlike that genre, however, the acting is far superior, which is why I can also recommend it without reservation. Just know what you’re going into… you’re going to get emotional and you’re going to get angry and you’re going to want to be curled up with someone when it is all said and done.

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