'The Freebie,' a romantic 'Paranormal Activity'? (video)
With "Paranormal Activity 2" coming out later this month and "The Virginity Hit" currently limping out of theaters, studios have been trying to strip down budget and effects and get back to storytelling basics.
But the independent-film world has been doing more with less for a while now, and on balance it still has a higher batting average. The latest example is "The Freebie," a quiet hit in the midnight section at Sundance this year. It's from indie director Katie Aselton, who stars in the movie alongside "Parenthood' star Dax Shepard.
Shot in just several days on a shoestring budget and largely improvised off an outline, the movie is part of a larger movement by a loose affiliation of young filmmakers to keep costs so low they can experiment freely with virtually no commercial consequences. In this case, the narrative plays off a simple premise: What happens, "The Freebie" asks, when a young married couple, still in love but feeling a little stultified in the bedroom, decide to spice things up by granting each other a one-night-only free pass to sleep with whomever they'd like?
Aselton has low-budget credibility as the co-star of the indie rom-com classic "The Puffy Chair" (and as the wife of "Chair" director Mark Duplass, the mumblecore pioneer who also directed this summer's "Cyrus"). She lives up to her resume here. The movie, which opens at the Nuart in West Los Angeles this weekend --- you can watch an exclusive clip below -- is one we admired for its thoughtfulness when we saw it in Sundance. We're hardly the only ones. As Gary Goldstein wrote in his Times review Friday, the attempt to explore a seemingly ordinary relationship yields "results [that] are alternately expected and surprising — and always involving."
Studios will continue to try to spend very little money and make a lot in return. One can only hope they get more consistent with their creative results. In the meantime, we have filmmakers such as Aselton.
-- Steven Zeitchik
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