The Freebie is a festival friendly drama-comedy about Darren (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Katie Aselton) ailing sexual relationship. The film is interested with relationships after they pass the lust stage. How do couples maintain a healthy romantic relationship? Darren and Annie strive for ways to spice up their situation and the idea eventually becomes one night of freedom from each other to explore other options. The film is shot very intimately and the audience will be shocked at the warmth conveyed by direction. The tension explored in this film is not typically deployed in this genre. This film showcases a perspective that could surprise viewers, I know I was.
Both Dax Shepard and Katie Aselton are able to deliver solid performances. I have always been skeptical of Shepard’s acting chops given his track record. However, he delivers a subtle and strong performance. His scenes with Aselton always have naturalistic approach and the direction only amplifies this. The intimacy and warmth in scenes is overwhelming. Aselton also directs and she uses a variety of tight portrait shots to convey emotion. I commend the effort and was surprised at how invested I found myself in the characters.
For a directorial debut there are quite a few positives here. The pacing, shot selection and performances are strong. Occasionally, I found myself disconnected from the writing. The plot became slightly muddled near the end and audiences may find themselves confused with the ending. However, the strength of the idea and performances are this film’s bread and butter. This is a positive first effort by a novice filmmaker and its worthy of your 77 minutes.
The Freebie is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is clean and well presented. The landscape of Los Angeles is not lost with a poor transfer. The hazy skyline and architecture are rich and full bodied. The night shots are warm and inviting as well. This is a sharp transfer and compliments the film well.
The 2.0 Dolby Digital surround mix is clear. There is very little invested in the immersion of sound throughout the film. However, the score of the film is huge positive. Julian Wass creates a strong musical compliment to the film. The dialogue is clear and with a strong dialogue emphasis throughout the film it’s nice to not be constantly reaching for the remote.
Audio Commentary: The commentary track has both Shepard and Aselton offering their insightful stories and witty comments. This is Aselton’s first film and audiences can tell immediately that it is a huge labor of love for her. The commentary track is pretty standard fare and both Shepard and Aselton provide just enough to not distract the viewer.
PSA for the film: An assortment of public service announcements for the film under the guise of advertising for “National Freebie Day”. These are actually a clever marketing tool.
The Freebie is a foray into the complexities of a monogamous marriage. Aselton asks if it is really cheating if both of you agreed upon it? It’s a provocative look at relationships and the film is ultimately based upon a contentious premise. The merits of the film are high. However, the film is marketed as a drama-comedy and for quite a few people it could be very misleading. There is some humor in this film. Though, it’s a dramatic film at its core. It is a strong first effort for any filmmaker and I found myself fond of the characters and enjoying myself.