Freeheld

It’s rare for a film to align so serendip­it­ously with the times, but “Free­held,” dir­ect­or Peter Sol­lett’s new drama, is one of those movies.

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It’s rare for a film to align so serendip­it­ously with the times, but “Free­held,” dir­ect­or Peter Sol­lett’s new drama, is one of those movies. A nar­rat­ive ex­pan­sion of the doc­u­ment­ary short that nabbed an Oscar in 2007, it tells the true story of ter­min­ally ill Laurel Hester (Ju­li­anne Moore) and her young­er part­ner, Stacie An­dree (El­len Page), two New Jer­sey wo­men who, while fa­cing tragedy, also faced in­justice. At the time (2005), the couple’s home state could ar­bit­rar­ily grant do­mest­ic part­ner be­ne­fits county by county, and in Hester and An­dree’s county, those be­ne­fits were denied. The fight for Hester to leave her pen­sion to An­dree made na­tion­al news, and their vic­tory was one of the ma­jor steps to­ward mar­riage equal­ity.

Today, of course, couples like Hester and An­dree do not need to fight these battles, and the most power­ful thing about “Free­held,” with re­spect to its sub­jects’ mis­for­tune (Hester ul­ti­mately died in ’06 at 49), is that its cent­ral con­flict feels ar­cha­ic, even quaint. For the mod­ern Amer­ic­an, this film re­flects how far the queer com­munity has come in 10 short years, and it just so hap­pens that it’s be­ing re­leased in the same year the Su­preme Court voted in fa­vor of same-sex mar­riage.

The film it­self is not ex­actly boast­ing the stuff that must-sees are made of. Its script sticks closely to a fa­mil­i­ar struggle-for-justice for­mula; Sol­lett doesn’t ex­hib­it much form­al dex­ter­ity; and Moore, re­l­at­ive to the feats she has achieved as an act­ress, is largely ser­vice­able in a role that begs her to dig in her teeth.

But Page — who also serves as pro­du­cer and has been tied to the film since age 21 — is rev­el­at­ory in her shrewdly lax, re­served por­tray­al of An­dree, and it is cer­tainly palp­able that this out act­ress is mak­ing work that is true to her heart. As Hester’s col­league and a crowd-ral­ly­ing ally, Mi­chael Shan­non is char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally su­perb, his rugged looks paired with a sens­it­ive dis­pos­i­tion. But the film’s broad­er, time-cap­sule-esque achieve­ments are what truly make it spe­cial, its in­her­ent vir­tues bolstered by a whole new world to which it provides per­spect­ive.

“Free­held”

PG-13

2.5 reels out of 4

Now play­ing at The Ritz Five

“Ma­gic Mike XXL”

R

Now avail­able

With “Ma­gic Mike,” Steven Soder­bergh turned what many thought would be a shal­low romp in­to a prob­ing, pristinely put-to­geth­er piece of cinema. With its se­quel, dir­ect­or Craig Jac­obs simply grabs the ma­ter­i­al and runs with it — and that’s just fine. If the first film was pop­u­lar art, the second is just a party, with cha­risma to burn from the likes of Chan­ning Tatum and new­comer Don­ald Glover. Round up your friends (and dol­lar bills), and en­joy the ride. ■


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