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Monday, May 24, 2010

SIFF Sighting: THE FREEBIE (comedy; USA)

A Mumblecore film can command an organic, thoughtful audience experience or exhibit such a level of pretentious arrogance that it destroys itself. The Freebie thankfully leans more toward the former, but to say that it was a perfect movie wouldn't be true.

I went into this film expecting a comedy (as its billing would indicate), and sure, I laughed a few times, but the subject matter wasn't really funny.

Darren (Sean Nelson) and Annie (Katie Aselton—also the film's director) are a normal married couple with friends whom they see regularly, a home nicer than their careers would allow, and no children to complicate things. Pretty great life, except they're having challenges in the bedroom. It's not that they've fallen out of love: they're clearly still very much in love, but they don't seem to connect physically anymore and neither seems to care.

When they realize it's been months since they last made love, they launch into a marathon discussion (literally a fourth of the movie) about how they're not worried about their lack of sex, but hypothetically it may be a good idea to sleep with other people to recharge the relationship batteries.

Compelling concept and certainly something that many couples have contemplated, with one another or not. We know the instant they begin discussing it, the pair will take the conversation one step further. To allow each other one "freebie" on the same night, and pledge to ask no post-extramarital-sex questions.

What happens next is a predictable roller coaster complete with dangerous flirtations, satisfying actions, double standards, hurt feelings, anger, remorse and confusion. And these parts of the film are the strongest.

If Aselton, who also wrote the feature, had begun the story with "that night" she would have had me at hello. Instead, I was forced, along with my fellow viewers, to endure pointless establishing shots and directionless chatter (granted, some may call that a hallmark of mumblecore), which only resulted in a few glances at the watch.

The Freebie screened at the 36th annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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