Thursday, February 16, 2006


Director: Joe Roth
Screenplay by Richard Price from his novel
Sony Pictures

Maybe books, or rather certain books, shouldn't ever be turned into movies. I haven't read Price's Freedomland, but it's a 700+ page book turned into a 2-hour movie. Movies have to cram all of that into a concise running time. L.A. Confidential turned out well, but it's an exception, and after you read the Ellroy novel you realize that the undertaking took some balls. In that film, though, they were able to keep the layers of complex plot virtually intact, and with a great mystery, awesome performances, and exciting action, it was enthralling. Freedomland is another adaptation that falls short, regardless of whether the book is good or not.

Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) comes into a hospital with blood on her hands. She says she was carjacked, and that a black man did it. And, to make matters worse, her son was in the car. On the case is Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson), who is the trusted, fatherly black cop of the predominantly black neighborhood. His investigation, along with all the other cops who get onboard, means questioning the residents of the projects. This sparks a protest in the neighborhood, and a racial divide begins slowly to get out of control. Meanwhile, Lorenzo doesn't quite believe all of Brenda's story, which is somewhat of a sticking point between he and Brenda's brother Danny (Ron Eldard), who wants a swift resolution. Eventually, Lorenzo has to call on the help of a lost child finding team led by Karen Colucci (Edie Falco), which takes the investigation to a creepy park called Freedomland that once was an abusive orphanage. There are other matters--Lorenzo has been asked by Felicia (Aunjanue Ellis) to have a word with her boyfriend Billy (Anthony Mackie), who has started beating her. Lorenzo also has a son in jail.

There are dynamic performances across the board, especially Moore, who plays off-kilter in a manner reminiscent of her character in Magnolia, only more controlled. It's been awhile since I've seen Jackson in material that suits him, and he's equally good. But where the movie lost me was where it gets into a huge mess. The racial divide that the film clearly wants to beat you over the head with isn't exactly a crucial element to the plot--and yet, every ten to fifteen minutes or so, we've got people yelling and protesting, and Lorenzo gets caught up in it, being called an Uncle Tom, and so forth. Ron Eldard's character disappears at a crucial moment in the story and never returns. There's a tacked-on ending that's just ugly. And I'm not saying that these things don't exist or aren't realistic, but I do ask that it mean something to the overall picture.


At 2/16/2006 07:06:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I have to admit I'm not looking as forward to seeing this as I thought I would be going into tomorrow. Why? Because I looked at who the director is, Joe Roth. This is the man that brought us, "Revenge of the Nerds II," "Christmas With the Kranks," and one of the most ridiculous movies ever, "America's Sweethearts." I guess being a producer, you can get whatever directing job you want. I hope to like it better than you Chris, but I think you're probably right on the money.


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