Opening 7 Apr 2016
Laurel Hester (Moore) and Dane Wells (Shannon) are a good team: they catch crooks and get convictions. Time off, Laurel drives to Pennsylvania to relax – she knows prudence is important regarding women being promoted. Meeting significantly younger Stacie Andree (Page) is unanticipated; Stacie confidently sets her course. Time passes. Buying a house, Laurel and Stacie feel like the luckiest gals alive. Caught off-guard when Dane drops off a shrub, Laurel faces his anger, “… for cops it’s all about trusting one’s partner.” Therefore, a doctor’s verdict is shattering: “we’re going to beat this,” swears Stacie. Ever realistic, Laurel’s concern is that Stacie gets her pension.
In 2005, the comfortable Ocean City, New Jersey five-man elected Board of Chosen Freeholders decide how the county spends its money. Denying Laurel’s request sets off an emotional dynamite keg underscoring disparities and inequality. The decorated detective, with an outstanding 23-year record, is only asking for fair equality. When Steven Goldstein (Carell), a proudly gay, Jewish, and tireless worker for Garden State Equality gets involved, cajoling and pushing everyone, their struggle goes national. Many sit-on-the-fence: (“cowards”) in the police department, a board member (Kelder), and the community. Oftentimes, status quo is the easiest route. As Laurel weakens, her supporters’ resolve strengthens “to do something”: their fight has significant, unimagined repercussions.
Cynthia Wade introduced Laurel and Stacie’s plight for equality as a short documentary. Filming the two women, “For me it was always first and foremost a love story.” An Oscar® in 2008 culminated Freeheld’s awards. Producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher approached Wade about making a feature film, by the same title, to reach a wider audience; Wade agreed. Director Peter Sollett acknowledges that although the country (USA) has come a long way since Wade’s documentary, discrimination still very much exists. Screenwriter Ron Nyswaner knew, after talking to Wade twenty-minutes, he wanted more people to hear this story. The casts’ finely balanced performances emanate; Moore is outstanding. Maryse Alberti’s cinematography, Andrew Mondshein’s editing, and Hans Zimmer’s music get full marks. Not since Philadelphia (1993, Nyswaner screenwriter), has the damage of mindless discrimination been so sensitively, astutely, compassionately pinpointed. Reminding people that strong civil courage allows that rights be freely held by all of society. (Marinell Haegelin)