Rent Freeheld (2015)

3.4 of 5 from 115 ratings
1h 39min
Rent Freeheld Online DVD & Blu-ray Rental
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Diagnosed with terminal cancer, decorated New Jersey detective Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) wishes to leave her pension benefits to domestic partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Denied by local county officials, Laurel receives help from hard-nosed colleague Dane Wells (Michael Shannon) and activist Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell), who unite to rally fellow police officers and ; ordinary citizens to support the couple's fight for equality.
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Kelly Bush Novak, Julie Goldstein, Phil Hunt, Duncan Montgomery, Ellen Page, Compton Ross, Jack Selby, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, James D. Stern, Cynthia Wade
Ron Nyswaner
E1 Entertainment
Drama, Lesbian & Gay, Romance
Release Date:
Run Time:
99 minutes
English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Hard of Hearing
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1

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Reviews (1) of Freeheld

An incredible Julianne Moore & Steve Carrell cannot make up for a terrible script & direction - Freeheld review by TB

Spoiler Alert

Laurel Hester is a phenomenal woman and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she was a trailblazer for & vital contributor to the LGBTQ movement in terms of securing equality for everyone. But it is a tragedy that this is the film that has been made about her inspiring and courageous fight to secure equality for her partner.

As much as I have given this 3 stars, that is mainly for performances and the fact that certain parts of this film are really enjoyable & moving. But overall the tone, direction and script of this film are awful. There is an unbelievably "soapy" feel about the entire thing. Whether it's the day to day relationship scenes, or an interrogation room, or even a cringeworthy "action" scene whilst attempting to stop a fleeing criminal, everything feels like it was rejected from the scripts of any one of the 10-a-penny soaps on afternoon TV.

This even affects the performances in some cases. There are certain scenes where Julianne Moore or Ellen Page absolutely knock a scene out of the park, then a couple of minutes later, are directed in such a way that even a Z-list Neighbours actor will go "Some of these scenes just aren't up to snuff!"

But as much as there are faults, there is also much to like. The bare bones of the story, although told simply, are very relatable and knowing that it's a true story does also give added gravitas. There is also a hilarious cameo from Steve Carrell, who plays, in his own words "A big loud gay Jew." But there is an absolute heart, pain and burning injustice behind his facade. And as much as the film does very forcefully point out that Laurel's plight is used by him as part of a bigger campaign for gay marriage, it is also shown very clearly that there is no way Laurel would have been able to take this fight right to the top if it wasn't for him & his supporters.

Overall though, this is a poignant film, but I did finish it and feel so frustrated at what I'd watched. So many great actors were cast here, there are flashes of brilliance and it's an inspirational story. And I genuinely get no pleasure from slating certain elements of this film. It's because as a whole, there is an amazing film in there struggling to get out. With a better script, this could have been something remarkable.

Sadly, most of the time, it's only just above average.

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Critic review

Freeheld review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso

The DVD of Freeheld makes both the smart and stupid mistake of including the award-winning documentary short on the true story of Laurel Hester and her fight to ensure her young lesbian partner would receive her benefits after cancer takes her away. It’s a brilliant short and is a story worth telling. The docudrama assembled for it in Freeheld, however, is not quite that film. It’s astonishing that a film such as this would wrap all these top-tier actors into a script that essentially comes off more like a lukewarm TV movie than a poignant drama for the big screen.

Julianne Moore plays Laurel as a hard-working cop that realizes she has to try twice as hard in a department where she’s the only woman. She’s a hard enough cop and gains the appreciation of her partner Dane Wells (Michael Shannon) who is willing to defend her in the field. Realizing she can’t be very open in such a closed-minded world, she hides away her homosexuality which is not easy. While at the bar, she stumbles into a relationship with the understanding of Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Thus begins a relationship that she tries to keep a low profile with, explaining away Stacie’s presence as that of a roommate or gardener. She doesn’t want to risk her job.

But when Laurel finds herself afflicted terminal cancer, she can no longer hide her secret, considering she wants her benefits to going towards Stacie. The city has refused to grant these benefits for what starts as government paperwork but eventually becomes more apparent as officials feel that supporting homosexuals is icky. Nobody on the board wants to fight for Laurel, even those that like her, as they fear they’ll be called out as queer and that it’ll damage their careers. However, as the political heads gain more ire for their denying of equal treatment, the political theater revs up its engines for a battle of the council.

This film treats its tale with an uncomfortable level of safeness, where intentions and personalities are pulled for these actors straight out of the hand-holding playbook for easily-digestible message movies. Moore and Page give the best performances by far and are careful never to give too many tears for risks of turning this into melodrama. Shannon is always good but his role as the first guy to stand up and fight for gay rights in his office comes only as a mild journey in deciding to do the right thing and telling his homophobic co-workers to go to hell. But then there’s Steve Carrel entering the picture as a gay activist who tries to sell his homosexuality in odd bits of dialogue. When Laurel asks if he’d marry her to gain benefits, he remarks dryly that he would but wouldn’t know what to do with her vagina.

Freeheld stages plenty of the expected scenes for such a tale built for a somber score to drive the drama. There’s an obligatory shot were to make her cause an ill Laurel will be wheeled to a city council meeting, surrounded by co-workers that finally come to her defense as they march into the meeting. We hear passionate speeches made at many meetings and watch Dane do the investigative hard work while Laurel slowly whithers closer towards death. With the best intentions, Freeheld only comes off as typical, playing things too safe with a story that feels like it should carry more emotional weight than a mere battle of standing up to homophobes and getting a council to vote for equal rights. Important, yes, but there’s nothing here you can’t get more from the documentary short.

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