Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Freebie

The Freebie
Directed by Katie Aselton
Released September 17, 2010

The tagline for this new film, “A One Night Experiment in Infidelity,” is somewhat misleading. Its subtle playfulness makes it seem like a cheery comedy about a couple that decides to try something new for a change. In reality, the film is a relatively serious and stark drama about a couple that makes a decision that the search for sexual fulfillment needs to be conducted outside their marriage. With grainy cinematography and no extensively-prepared backgrounds or visual effects, this is a plain and simple story of two people and a snapshot from their lives, exposed in the open for audiences to see.

It’s hard to find a film as intimate as “The Freebie,” which for most of its run time centers exclusively on its two main players, Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Katie Aselton). A quiet evening in bed together results in Darren’s suggestion to “race,” which turns out to be a mad dash to the finish line with twin crossword puzzle books rather than some other, more physically exerting adventure. Their ensuing discussion about their lack of sexual activity in their marriage comes up naturally as conversations between spouses tend to, and the hatching of the idea is organic and credible.

From there, “The Freebie” dives deep as it follows the alternating wonder and agony with which both Darren and Annie attempt to decide who their one-time partners will be and whether it’s ultimately a good idea for their marriage. Much of the process is without dialogue, and it’s the lack of talking that demonstrates just how difficult and potentially problematic this idea may be. The film starts with a sense of humor and quickly turns serious as its characters began to ponder just what they’ve gotten themselves into with their decision.

This movie has an incredibly small cast which mostly features Shepard and Aselton in scenes together. Shepard isn’t entirely capable of playing a completely complex character, but just like in his starring role in the television series “Parenthood,” Shepard is exactly the right choice for the part and performs commendably enough. Aselton, who also wrote and directed the film, is the real find here as the less talkative and boisterous member of the couple. Together, the two are funny, compelling, believable, and extremely watchable. The performances are strong, and so is the plot: this isn’t a movie where one factor has to be better than the other; instead, they’re both equally great.


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