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The Freebie (2010)

February 26, 2011

written by: Katie Aselton
produced by: Adele Romanski, Katie Aselton & Mark Duplas
directed by: Katie Aselton
rated R (for language and sexual content)
75 min
U.S. release date: September 17, 2010
DVD/Bluray release date: January 11, 2011
The subject of both fidelity and infidelity has been covered on film in a variety of degrees, for some time. From the timely “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice” to last year’s tepid “Chloe”, audiences have been exposed to the complexity of marriage and the flirtation with unfaithfulness. Now comes a heavily improvised mumblecore indie, directed by Katie Aselton, who also stars,  that handles the strains of a marriage with surprising realism. Comfortably dealing with monogamy in a bold and mature manner (unlike the recently released “Hall Pass”) “The Freebie” portrays the repercussions a stagnant couple must deal with when they give each other a night off.
Annie (Katie Aselton) and Darren (Dax Shepard) are best friends who’ve been married for about seven years now and their palpable chemistry has a natural synchronicity. They’ve developed a life full of routines: getting lattes together at the local coffee shop, going for runs in the mountains overlooking L.A., and attending dinner parties with their friends. There’s an honesty in their relationship which brings them to admit that their sex life isn’t exactly, as Annie puts it, “what it once was….or what it could be”.  During some hypothetical and philosophical pillow talk, they come to solution to their rut, in hopes of reawakening their lost libido.
For just one night, they agree to go their separate ways and seek out a “freebie”, someone to have sex with. The only rule they come up with is that neither of them are to discuss the details of their evenings. With an agreement like this, it’s obvious that feelings of doubt, guilt, and mistrust are bound to surface. How the two deal with their decision and whether or not they follow through with an act that is bound to damage their firm union, makes for a captivating study on the one night stand.
FREEBIE Dax Shepard Kate Aselton
The best thing going for “The Freebie” is its believable characters and the improvised dialogue which flesh them out in a natural way. A Hollywood movie with this kind of topic would either go super-serious and depressing or give us a wacky crazy comedy. Here is a film that has a sense of humor, delivered by some great back and forth by Aselton and Shepard, that takes an unoriginal idea and makes it surprisingly interesting. The two actors portray a couple with a strong bond that makes you want to see where they will go with their proposal. Both convey an obvious trepidation and hesitancy, especially in the scenes with the freebies they hook up with. Which is to their credit, since we at no point believe what they set out to do is a good idea. 

From the poster and the film’s description, I didn’t think it’d be worthy of my time. I like it when I give a film a chance to prove me wrong. My decision stemmed from curiosity. When I learned that Aselton (wife of executive producer Mark Duplas, who helped make last year’s “Cyrus” which Aselton also starred in) wrote, directed, and starred in it, I was curious on what a woman’s take on a common relationship roadblock would bring. As a director, she proves to be a formidable filmmaker, despite using handheld HD (at times, a bit too realistic) she manages to focus on shame and paranoia in a truthful way.


The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, showed up at SXSW as well, and then only hit a select amount of theaters last September. Now that it is available on DVD and on Netflix “Watch Instantly (which is more accessible), it will likely find a larger audience. And it should. There aren’t many films that deal with relationship issues in a real and raw way that doesn’t tie everything up during the story’s run time. This one has an intriguing ending that is somewhat ambiguous, something I appreciated. It made me wonder and reflect on the damage that can be done in one night.
RATING: *** 

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