2015 has been a big year for the LGBT community. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that all states in the union must allow same-sex marriage. It seemed a huge leap for the nation to give merit to the phrase, “love wins”. This ruling came just nine years after the plot line to a film that recently released on streaming platforms and DVD. Freeheld is based on the true story of Police Lieutenant Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) of Ocean City, New Jersey who finds that she is dying of lung cancer and wants her pension to be granted to her domestic partner, Stacie (Ellen Page). Laurel spends her last year of life fighting for that cause along with her police partner Dane Wells (Michael Shannon) and same-sex marriage activist Steven “with a V—for Very gay” Goldstein (Steve Carell).
Filming began in October 2014 and was modeled after an Oscar winning documentary short made of the same name in 2007. It was filmed in New York, although it was set in Jersey for cheaper film taxes. It has received mixed-to-average reviews such as 6.4 on IMDB and 46% on Rotten Tomatoes. The script was written by Ron Nyswaner and directed by Peter Sollett (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist). The story follows Hester and Stacie chronologically from their first meeting on the volleyball court, to their moving into a house together. It explores the dichotomy of a tension filled courtroom drama with the tenderness of a love story.
For me, the start was slow and I couldn’t seem to get used to Julianne Moore in the role. She comes off a little awkward and I’m not sure if that’s really how Laurel was in life, or if Moore just never got the hang of the role. However, Ellen Page is flawless. The setting is in a small town and I had to look up the year because the girls’ hairstyles were so bad. I was surprised to find that it was all set in the 2000s. The 19-year age gap between the two is a bit much for me and makes it hard to get romantically invested. I suppose the gap also probably didn’t help their case so much, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s a true story. The arc of action is firm and easy to follow, solid film but nothing spectacular.
Steve Carell as Steven Goldstein from Garden State Equality is too funny. He’s pushing for nationally recognized gay marriage and “the opportunity to change the world” however, Laurel didn’t want to be a gay marriage activist, she just wanted equality. In the film, like in life, it’s easy to see that everyone has an angle. I think that realization made me resent the story in general. The Ocean County Freeholders (elected officials) deny Laurel’s request three times! It follows the decline of Laurel’s health juxtaposed with the escalation of their case as more and more people show up to support Laurel and Stacie’s cause, turning it into a media frenzy. When the Freeholders change their decision, Laurel is then promoted to Lieutenant leading me to my next salty point: Why do you have to have cancer to get what you deserve?
The star for me is Ellen Page. Her crying makes me tear up every time, in every film she’s in. Page actually identifies as a lesbian in life and she is also the new co-host to a series called Gaycation, where she travels the world finding and supporting people of the LGBT community. I find her adorable, but unfortunately, she’s still Juno to me. She was so perfect and believable in that role that it seems to have taken her persona over, sort of like Daniel Radcliffe is from the wizarding world.
The rest of the roles are well cast. Michael Shannon is perfect for the partner of Laurel and cop role. Carell is hilarious as the Gay Jewish Activist. Moore and Carell have worked together before in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Although I wasn’t wild about Moore’s depiction, I was impressed with how sad, unpretty and even gross her decline was as Laurel. Such a beautiful actress was able to capture the real terror of such an ugly illness.