Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You Missed It: THE FREEBIE

Posted By on May 10, 2011, 7:09 AM

So you think Hall Pass was the definitive statement on married couples experimenting with a fixed-term “open relationship?” Think again. ---

(“You Missed It” is a continuing weekly series highlighting feature films that did not receive commercial theatrical release in Utah).

Writer/director/star Katie Aselton debuted a more contemplative variation on Hall Pass’s high-concept premise at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Her protagonists are Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Aselton), happily married for seven years except for a somewhat frustrating lull in their sex life. So they come up with an idea to spice things up: On one evening, both of them will get a chance for a repercussion-free one-night-stand.

At times, it seemed like Aselton was on the verge of a classic romantic comedy premise that stays away from all the slapstick distractions of Hall Pass. The opening conversations zing with some hilarious relationship chatter, and Aselton does a great job of establishing the sweet, simple routines of Darren and Annie’s life together. Then it seemed like she was on the verge of a perfectly heartbreaking romantic drama premise, as the consequences of Darren and Annie’s respective approaches to their agreement come home to roost.

But there’s one central frustration that keeps all of these parts from coming together: Aselton never seems entirely clear what she wants to do with the concept. She plays around with out-of-sequence chronology, and employs enough space-holder scenes and montages to make even 78 minutes feel somewhat padded. Credit to Aselton for creating two sympathetic, flawed characters—endearingly acted by the two leads—even if the screenplay containing them feels at least another draft away from its full potential.

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