Freeheld (Blu-ray)

February 2, 2016 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Based on a true story, Freeheld stars Julianne Moore and Ellen Page as two partners who battle the state of New Jersey to secure pension benefits. Moore plays Laurel Hester. She’s been on the police force for over 20 years and meets Stacie Andree (Page) one night at a bar. The two start dating, and eventually buy a house together. Laurel gets a pain in her side one night and goes to the doctor to have it checked out. As it turns out, she has terminal cancer. Problems don’t end there as Laurel is refused have her pension benefits transferred to Stacie. Laurel’s coworker and fellow detective, Dane (Michael Shannon) insists she go public with this as the board doesn’t like controversy. She does and this eventually attracts the attention of a gay Jewish activist, Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell). The film then follows these characters as they fight for equality.

Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much from this film, but it worked on me. At no point does it veer into greatness, but the performances and sincerity of the story help elevate it. The entire cast does a great job, and the film carefully avoids being heavy handed or preachy. Sure, there are the familiar speeches and court room scenes, but nothing is overdone here. It can feel a bit like a TV drama at times, but I found myself invested in the story even though I knew the outcome. Some of the earlier moments of the film do feel a bit unnecessary as they deal with Laurel and Dane doing their police work, but it doesn’t drag the film too much. I think it’s more to show her she’s committed to her work and give a bit more insight into her. Steve Carell seems to be having a good time here as his performance is far from subtle. Still, it somehow works. Freeheld isn’t essential viewing, but it’s a worthy rental.

Video: How’s it look?

It’s nice to see a “flat” film now and then as it utilizes most (if not all) of my television screen and is a nice change of pace from the ultra wide films that I’m accustomed to watching. The 1.85:1 AVC HD image certainly looks good and don’t let the cover art fool you – this is actually a pretty bright and colorful movie (in spite of the subject matter). Flesh tones seem a bit on the pale side (then again Page and Moore aren’t exactly bursting with pigment), detail is superb and contrast is rock solid. It’s on par with what we’d expect.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Call me crazy, but I’ve always had a hard time understanding what Ellen Page says. I don’t know what it is, but even in the X-Men films as Kitty Pryde, I just felt she mumbled too much. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there and she is a bit clearer in this film. The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn’t break any new barriers as far as intensity, rather this is a very subdued track that simply gets the point across. And in this case – that’s ok.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • The Making of Freeheld – A fairly standard “Making Of…” featurette that dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s. We get some interviews with the cast and crew, the director chimes in and we get some references to the Academy Award winning documentary.
  • “Freehold to Freedom: Ocean County Then and Now” – Somewhat of a retrospective in that a comparison is drawn from the results of the actions that transpired. Wheat’s really changed?
  • Oscar-winning Documentary Short “FREEHELD” – The 2007 Academy Award winning short is superior to the movie itself (probably why it won the Oscar) and it’s a nice inclusion.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Peter Sollett and Actors Julianne Moore and Ellen Page sit down and provide a pretty interesting track, though there were a few more dead spaces in there than I would care for. Still, it’s a fun, fact-filled track that tries to tackle a few issues and is well worth a listen.

The Bottom Line

Led by strong performances across the board, Freeheld probably shouldn’t work, but it does, somehow. The film is well paced and has a fairly involving story to make up for some of the more familiar elements. Rent it.

Disc Scores