In the wake of efforts by States like Georgia and North Carolina to oppress the LGBT community, one might watch Freeheld and remind yourself of what life was like before equality. As the movie points out, it was cruel to the level of persecuting the dying.
Welcome to the true story of a decorated New Jersey female police detective who works drug and murder cases. After two decades on the force, of hiding her sexual preference, she falls in love with a younger woman. When domestic partnerships - different from marriage - become an option, they form a civil union.
Unfortunately, the detective develops cancer. Wanting the person she loves to be able to keep their home, she asks her pension be left to her partner. The local government - officials, it turns out that were gaming the system to collect more than one pension - denied her request. They kept denying even as death sat in front of them. The case helped spur the drive for gay marriage.
This cast helped bring the script to a passionate level. Oscar Winner Julianne Moore stars along with Ellen Page as the women at the center of the scandal. I'm trying to recall a bad performance Julianne Moore has done but none come to mind. She pours her soul into this role. Ellen Page doesn't skip a beat in matching Moore's performance, as her partner, and I wish the script had given a little more depth to their personal trials even though in some respect, that is a sub-plot.
A big surprise is Steve Carell who plays a gay, religious Jew activist. I say that in the sense that this is the type of role you don't really expect to see Carell playing. I love it when performers take risk. When Carell enters the story, a whole new level of energy is infused into the film.
If there's a weak link to this film, it is the script. I don't mean to suggest it is bad. It isn't. But neither is it overwhelming. With a lesser cast, this movie could've been in serious trouble. The first 20 minutes dragged a bit and there were story angles - like a murder case - that came and went without clarity to the overall arch.
Case in point is the performance by Michael Shannon. I thought it was a tad one-note but I also think that was probably all the script offered. For instance, Shannon's character - the detective's partner - has trouble, once he learns, accepting his partner's sexuality. But then next thing you know, he is okay with it and active in her defense. Yet, the audience never sees that transition. He is a supporting character so it is easy to move past that oversight to a degree but it represents where the movie falls short.
The failings of the script are compensated by the fact the story is compelling and grows with intensity as it moves along. It is easy to be caught up in the drama. Sadly, this true event is an echo of the way LGBT have been treated and a staunch reminder of why rights need to protected.
I rented this movie via Redbox. This is a movie that tugs at you long after you return it. How we treat others in time of need says a lot about ourselves. This movie isn't perfect but with a rating of 4 of 5, definitely worth the view.