With the most recent monumental win for the GLBTQ+ community on the marriage equality front, this film depicts one couple’s struggle for equality. A struggle that has been shared by millions in the last 50 years, and even before that. Freeheld is a reminder of what we fought for and what we lost along the way.
The production value of the film made figuring out what time period this took place in difficult. The cars, the clothes and especially the hairstyles put the film anywhere from the 70’s to early 2000’s. Perhaps that was an intentional device meant to capture the struggle faced openly since the 1970’s up until more recently. More likely, it was just the result of poor cinematography using toned down colors and muted vibrancy as a way to establish that the film is set in the past.
This performance-driven film used a conventional and safe film style that you would easily find on the Hallmark channel or Lifetime. The only quality that separates this film from a TV movie is the high-caliber cast. Oh, and a lack of commercials, unless you could consider anytime that Steve Carell was on screen as a break. The introduction of Carell’s character provides an odd tone change from the film that proves as entertaining as it is distracting. Carell’s portrayal of Steven Goldstein, from what I saw after watching a few YouTube videos of Goldstein giving speeches, was much more exaggerated than it needed to be.
Julianne Moore shines as a small town detective facing discrimination from people who she would or has laid down her life to protect. She embodies the frustration and sense of anger her character portrays, and we understand her feelings and logic. In that way, Ron Nyswaner’s screenplay succeeds. It focuses on the important relationships in Laurel’s life, which is the one she has with her work partner Dane (Michael Shannon) and her life partner Stacie (Ellen Page). This is the story’s most important emphasis (as it should be), but outside of that there is little else this film offers.
Director Peter Sollett offers little cinematic joys beyond the obvious. Everything is meant to be taken at face value with no symbolism to dissect or metaphors to decrypt. The only thing that would separate this from a documentary would be that the documentary would feel much more honest and less emotionally manipulative. Perhaps that is why the documentary short of the same name won an Academy Award.
Freeheld stands as a look back on an individual’s struggle that would echo through to the present where vague terminology and separate-but-equal distinctions have recently been abolished. It also serves as a reminder that while the law is on our side, there will still be opposition by people who refuse to do the right thing, or their jobs, like Kim Davis.
RATING: ★★★★★ (5/10 stars)