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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Freeheld  (2015)
2½ Stars
Directed by Peter Sollett.
Cast: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, Steve Carell, Josh Charles, Luke Grimes, Gabriel Luna, Anthony De Sando, Skipp Sudduth, Kevin O'Rourke, Mary Birdsong, Kelly Deadmon, William Sadler, Tom McGowan, Dennis Boutsikaris, Adam LeFevre, Jeannine Kaspar, Traci Hovel, Julie Reiber, Mina Sundwall.
2015 – 103 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for some thematic elements, language and sexuality).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, February 2, 2016.
"Freeheld" is a valiant biopic of social activism, but one which never quite shakes its made-for-cable feel. A feature adaptation of the Oscar-winning 2007 documentary short of the same name, the film has three impassioned performances on its side in the form of Julianne Moore (2014's "Still Alice"), Ellen Page (2012's "To Rome with Love") and Michael Shannon (2011's "Take Shelter"). Moore stars as Laurel Hester, a 25-year Orange County, New Jersey, police detective who falls in love with younger mechanic Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Shortly after moving in together and becoming domestic partners, Laurel is diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Afraid that Stacie will not be taken care of after she is gone, Laurel—with support from compassionate colleague Dane Wells (Michael Shannon) and Garden State Equality founder Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell)—begins a crusade for equality against the local government officials who are denying Laurel's pension benefits to Stacie.

With "Freeheld," director Peter Sollett (2008's "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist") and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (1993's "Philadelphia") have made a respectful and compassionate—if arguably too safe and restrained—docudrama. Told in a very point-A-to-point-B fashion, the film's trajectory is a predictable one, but its performances are uniformly fine. Julianne Moore is touching as Laurel Hester, facing her own mortality while fighting for her and Stacie's relationship to be recognized by local officials, while Ellen Page and Michael Shannon lend excellent support as Stacie and Dane. Enjoyable to watch if somewhat undemanding and lacking in complexity, "Freeheld" tells an important story with a comfort-food vibe.
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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