Holding the (wo)man
Palace Brighton Bay - Saturday 7 November 2015, 2:00pm
Running time: 103m
Country: United States
Classification: M (Mature themes and coarse language)
Release date: 05/11/15
Cost: $10 (Optus Rewards)
Rating: 7/10 (ME 3.5/5, DP 3.5/5)
Freeheld is the story of how celebrated New Jersey detective Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) met Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) and they fell in love. Shortly after they buy a house and start to establish their quiet and comfortable life together, Laurel is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and from there we witness the pair's fight to have Laurel's pension benefits transferred to Stacie under the state's Domestic Partnership Act.
This is a well intentioned movie, providing a strong reminder of the struggle for recognition of gay rights and equality, yet it has a bit of a 'TV-issue of the week-movie' feel about it (to the point where you expect one of the old Charlie's Angels team to make an appearance....and you just about do with Laurel's 'Farrah Flick' playing quite a prominent role in itself). Freeheld is formulaic and lacking in real soul, which ultimately leaves the viewer feeling somewhat disappointed. The relationship between Laurel and Stacie has a wonderful feel-good start, but loses something as the political fight and the issues start to take precedence. Most disappointing is the character of Stacie who starts out as strong, empowered and comfortable with herself and her life, but who becomes little more than a weeping and blubbering bit player in the second half of the film. The relationship between the police partners, Dane Wells (Michael Shannon) and Laurel, feels so much more realistic and provides a level-headed approach as he comes to accept Laurel and Stacie's relationship after his initial shock at discovering it and then becomes their greatest ally in the fight for what is right.
The most frustrating scenes in this movie are provided by Steve Carrell, as Steven ("with a V for VERY gay") Goldstein, the founder of Garden State Equality. He delivers a stereotyped and over-wrought performance, a performance lacking in subtlety as he uses Laurel and Stacie's plight as a political opportunity in his fight for gay marriage rights. Many of the scenes he appears in, backed by a placard wielding rent-a-crowd, are embarrassing and may make you squirm. And finally, Hollywood's current predilection for true stories continues, with the final credits commencing with real images of the characters upon whom the story was based, as if to ram home the point and emphasise the facts...completely unnecessary. This is an important and interesting story that had so much potential, particularly with such a strong cast, however it loses much in the final execution. (DP)