Straight out of the gate I feel like I should express that I don’t have a real great track record when it comes to my enjoyment of indie mumblecore movies, which THE FREEBIE oozes from nearly every orifice. There’s honesty in the presentation of the characters and their dialogue and the relationships that are being presented; but at the same time the slow and methodical pacing of the mumblecore films really tests my patience and I find it hard to really immerse myself within the conflicts and emotions. I understand the points they are trying to get across and even at times connect with characters mindsets, but just can’t fully engage myself largely due to my indifference with the style. All that aside I don’t violently hate THE FREEBIE, but don’t read too much into that because in no way shape or form did I like this movie.
Married couple Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Katie Aselton) appear to be carefree and happy, but neither of them is fully satisfied with their sex life. After a dinner party with some friends Darren’s male curiosity is heightened and he presents Annie with the proposition that each of them should take one night to go out and have sex with someone in hopes of recapturing the spark they used to have. Neither of them anticipated how easy this concept is in theory but how harmful it can become when taken to fruition.
My biggest problem with THE FREEBIE was the stylistic similarities to another mumblecore film I didn’t like called HUMP DAY. Each of them present an off kilter idea to important characters and then the rest of the film we see the repercussions of these decisions and the toll they take on the characters; the main different is THE FREEBIE features an actor I don’t find particularly funny or charming, Dax Shepard. The premise is intriguing in a human way as everyone can sit around and ponder the outcome of such a deal between two married people, but you don’t have to be a relationship expert to be able to take these characters by the shoulders and shake them to get them to understand that the odds are against them here. We all can talk a big game and attempt to predict how we’d be able to handle negotiated infidelity, but no one can possibly anticipate a sudden burst of feelings and jealousy that is in our nature. I don’t believe that these characters can do it and in the end with the handling of the ending I’m not even exactly sure what the film wants me to feel about the two leads. What I do feel is that they are both horrible liars and Shepard’s character comes off as a huge hypocritical dick. It attempts to paint Aselton as the victim once the dirty deed is finished and the consequences begin to show, but towards the end the film then shows her as a blatant liar as well. So who are we supposed to root for?
What I liked were sections from the middle when Darren and Annie are negotiating the act and then both go off on their quests. I enjoyed the lead up sporadically and the one scene I can pick out that I enjoyed the most was Annie’s conversation at the bar with the bartender. The scene is both funny and sad to me and as you can see her embarrassment and self conscious feelings right on her sleeves and funny when the bartender is picking out guys and she’s judging the picks. I was right there with Annie when things started going downhill, I felt bad for her and hated Darren and then there’s a scene that just flipped my perception of her. She went from being sympathetic to a manipulative liar with an agenda and I lost any and all connections I had to the film.
The performances aren’t anything to write home about until the end, but at that point I was so indifferent about the characters that I just didn’t care anymore. The film served up a premise I felt interesting enough to sit down and watch but when I started digging in all that was there was cold and dry, the emotions didn’t carry across as much as I’d like and the moral of the story was old and overdone.
THE FREEBIE is the exact type of indie film that I just can’t get into. If it’s attempting to ask deeper questions in regards to character motivations and leaving the answers for our own reading of the film, then it failed to make me care what my answer would be within seconds of ending credits. Perhaps the greater failure was that once it ended I didn’t even feel compelled to say anything about it to anyone. THE FREEBIE is about as quickly forgettable as any generic Hollywood rom com being released every year; do yourself a favor and skip this one.