Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Based on a true story, FREEHELD tells the story of New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester’s legal battles to ensure that her pension is left to her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree, when she is diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer. Before meeting Stacie (Ellen Page in her best screen performance since Juno), Laurel (the always astonishing Julianne Moore) is a tough-as-nails cop busting drug dealers, all the while hiding the fact that she is a lesbian from everyone, including her work partner Dane Wells (Michael Shannon, powerfully impassioned). We watch the two women meet, fall passionately in love, buy a home together and legally register as a domestic partnership. When the request to have Laurel’s pension benefits transferred to Stacie is denied by conservative elected government officials, in comes Steven Goldstein, a self-proclaimed “big loud gay Jew” to fight for their cause. As played by Steve Carell, gay activism has never been more refreshingly and humorously portrayed in the movies. There should be another Academy Award nomination for him for this role.
Gay activism is only one of many topics screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) eloquently touches, yet never in a preachy, heavy handed way. Homophobia in the police force and government offices. The advent of gay marriage. Living life in a closet. Religious beliefs. Not only does Director Peter Sollett (Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist) draw exceptional work from the four leads (I will go on record saying Julianne Moore surpasses her brilliant job in last year’s Still Alice and could be the first woman since Katharine Hepburn to win back-to-back Oscars), he elicits memorable moments from actors that are in the movie for a handful of scenes. Luke Grimes (50 Shades of Grey) shines as a cop-in-the-closet and Josh Charles (TV’s The Good Wife) subtly portrays the anguish he feels as the government official uncomfortable with the pension denying decision.
FREEHELD is moviemaking at its finest. It had me laughing uproariously, angry about political injustices and hypocrisies and teary-eyed at the adversities decent people have to face due to ignorance.
eOne Films release FREEHELD, which screens at TIFF ’15:
Sun Sep 13 9:30 PM
ROY THOMSON HALL
Mon Sep 14 12:00 PM