Sundance 2010 Review: THE FREEBIE
Director: Katie Aselton
Writer: Katie Aselton
Cast: Katie Aselton, Dax Shepard, Leonora Gershman, Ross Partridge
Studio: Phase 4
The idea brought up in THE FREEBIE is such a briar patch of problems that, for the good of mankind, it should be a felony to suggest it to your spouse. First, the spouse is almost certainly not going to go for it. Second, and so much more importantly, other than maybe a few moments of pleasure, no good will come of this (yes, with something this important you have to speak like a prophet).
In the film, married couple Darren and Annie (Dax Shepard and the film's director Katie Aselton) appear believably happy with their partner, but still decide that each of them will get one of night of "free" sex with stranger. Why? Well, they have a great time being around each other but they have not had sex in months, and they think this might be the right catalyst to get things steamy again.
Shepard and Aselton have the necessary chemistry together, creating a funny, affable couple--the kind of couple you would like to go on double dates with. Before things get skewed with the "freebie" proposition, Darren and Annie feel completely right together. We enjoy our time with Darren and Annie like they enjoy their time together. The performances by Shepard and Aselton give us an attachment with the film. We have an interest, we like these people, we want everything to turn out OK. We have been hooked.
THE FREEBIE does not have a fully linear structure. The film's beginning is the beginning, but when the idea is brought up, that is when things start getting moved around a bit and it is for the better. The film juggles past excitement with present frustration, creating an insightful contrast as we see the characters worried or upset in the present, occasionally juxtaposed with scenes depicting their eagerness when originally discussing and planning the idea. We all have things we regret, and when we reflect on them we think, "Why did I go through with this?" THE FREEBIE bluntly reminds us that, it is because at the time we did not know it would turn out like it did, and our excitement clouded our judgment. Making it even more heartbreaking as we see Annie and Darren's happiness before everything gets incredibly complicated, and having to listen to them foolishly talk about their plan.
Having such a loaded proposition at the center of a film makes it quite intriguing from the beginning, and this premise is rightly worked by Aselton and everyone else involved. The film has characters that we buy and like, and is also structured and shown in a way that allows the weight of the characters' decisions to hit like we are a member of the couple that took this very dangerous turn together.
P.S. THE FREEBIE is playing at this year's SXSW Film Festival and you should check it out there. It is an impressive film, and you would make a 25 year old man (me) happy if you saw it. Sounds like a win win.
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