Review: Freedomland

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  February 17, 2006 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

There is this saying that states "less is more".

Well when it comes to Freedomland, Moore should have been less.

Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson star in the thriller, Freedomland, which opens with Moore stumbling into a hospital with blood-soaked hands and utterly hysterical.

The emergency staff tends to the woman as Jackson takes her statement. It turns out she has been in a carjacking and it turned violent. The woman seems to be hiding something, and why would she be driving in the wrong part of town so late at night? The more the officer grills her, the more she freaks, until she reveals that her young son was still in the back seat after the carjacking.

The film follows the search for the missing child.

Freedomland is a film that should be full of such raw emotion and amazing performances. Jackson and Moore are both at the top of their game. The script was adapted by acclaimed novelist Richard Price, who wrote the book. The film was also directed by Joe Roth, who directed the critically acclaimed 1986 film, Streets of Gold.

So what went wrong?

Well first off, a lot of the blame lies with Roth who doesn't have a flair for directing dark, grisly, overly-emotional films. His last film was the disastrous Christmas with the Kranks. I guess he can't do comedy either.

The man has directed six films in twenty years and has had a huge success as a producer. He has tried a couple different kinds of films, but none have really screamed definitive. Personally, I liked his debut film Streets of Gold and his 1990 film Coupe De Ville.

You can see blatantly where Roth struggled with character development, emotion, and plot devices in Freedomland. Roth's direction is sloppy and all over the place as it never knows how to photograph a scene. You can also see Roth was never sure what angle to play with the Moore character and the Jackson character. It is such a ridiculous treatment of two deep, detailed characters, it's a shame that someone with more panache didn't find this project.

Jackson and Moore are put through the emotional ringer in this flick and they spend 90% of it screaming at the top of their lungs and over-acting 'til they pass out. Moore is especially a wreck. She is so hard to watch it makes you want to scream at the screen, "For the love of God, someone slap that woman!" It's embarrassing to see such great talent so awful.

On a side note, could someone tell Julianne's agent to find her a nice happy friendly film or an ensemble dramedy where she isn't running around like a crazy woman in search of someone who's done something nasty to her kid?

I liked the story, but I felt that it should have been a lot better and executed so much better. I really love each of the leads, but here I don't know what to think of them.

Also, another part of the film that really confused me was the whole race issue and the racial tensions exploding between cops and a predominantly black neighborhood. I am not sure if this whole angle was needed or if it fit with the film. The case was interesting enough. If it was an intricate part of the novel then it just felt wrong in the context of the film. It's never fully fleshed out and the case and the racial tensions never really gel.

Freedomland has all the right things going for it and it's the perfect film on paper. But it is just plain painful to watch. (1.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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