DVD Review: Freeheld

FreeheldDVDSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Peter Sollett | CAST: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell, Michael Shannon, Luke Grimes, Josh Charles, William Sadler
RELEASE DATE: 2/2/16 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.99
BONUSES: commentary, documentary short, featurettes
SPECS: PG-13 | 103 min. | Biographical drama-romance | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Inspired by a true story that in turn was the basis for an Oscar-winning 2007 documentary short, Freeheld centers on Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore, Still Alice) a veteran New Jersey detective who passionately fights to retain her pension as she struggles with advanced lung cancer.

Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld

Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld

The reason the law and the local powers-that-be threaten her retirement fund is because they don’t recognize her same-sex relationship status with an auto mechanic (Ellen Page, X-Men: Days of Future Past). With help from her by-the-book cop partner (Michael Shannon, Take Shelter) and a gay rabble-rousing rabbi (Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher), the increasingly frail Hester battles the odds and takes on the system.

Bearing strong similarities to screenwriter Ron Nyswaner’s Academy Award-nominated Philadelphia, Freeheld mixes legal maneuvering with LGBT sensitivity and a heavy dose of righteous indignation. And while director Peter Sollett (Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist) brings a functional made-for-TV style to the proceedings, the cast is uniformly strong, from the high profile leads to supporting turns by Josh Charles (Adult Beginners) and Denis Boutsikaris (The Bourne Legacy).

A failure in theaters following good advance buzz and a Toronto Film Festival sendoff, Freeheld should find a nice audience among issues-oriented viewers who like a good true-life tearjerker with liberal leanings.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.