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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8%
Worth A Look80%
Average: 4%
Pretty Bad: 8%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 7 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"1. Morgan Freeman. 2. Paz Vega. You Need More?"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Actors playing themselves or, at least, versions of their personas is always an interesting experiment. Usually it’s a way to playfully mock their public image and nothing more, unless you’re M. Night Shyamalan who actually plays an actor playing a part who is pretty much his God-like image of himself. Albert Brooks is always Brooks-ish but kept the name as the celebrity Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. William Shatner was the object of two Star Trek fans platonic hang-out fantasy in the underappreciated Free Enterprise. Now its Morgan Freeman’s turn, an actor who doesn’t really have much of a public persona other than being just a seriously great actor. That fact helps make Brad Silberling’s interesting social experiment such a charmer in the truest sense of the term by getting to watch Freeman break out, be a little goofy and have a lot of fun alongside one of the most beautiful and exciting actresses hopefully starting to get her due in America.

An actor who looks and sounds just like Morgan Freeman is being driven out to a little supermarket in California to research a role he “hasn’t committed to” yet. He hasn’t worked in four years and is constantly hounded by the driver connected to the film (a very funny Jonah Hill from Accepted & The 40 Year-Old Virgin) to delight him with the familiar pipes which have become almost as synonymous with voiceovers as James Earl Jones. He even mistakes his voice for that on an audiobook. The store itself is a large hole on the Earth, with just a couple cashiers on duty and a manager (Kumar Pallana) barely left with a single faculty.

The unnamed actor checks out the place but finds himself, as anyone would, to the woman handling the 10-items-or-less line. Her name is Scarlet (Paz Vega) and she takes her position most seriously even if she hates it. After a full shift, where the actor tries to have as much fun trapped within a discount outlet since Frank Whaley in Career Opportunities, he’s left stranded and turns to Scarlet who agrees to get him home after she completes all her errands for the day. One of them just happens to be a job interview for a secretarial position and the actor jumps at the chance to repay her by preparing her through the motions of a true moviestar.

The superficial notion of a rich, Hollywood celebrity helping a barely middle class minority should be struck from your mind instantly as there is not an ounce of condescension dripping from it’s intentions. At first, the parody of Freeman’s iamge and career, including the video boxes with Ashley Judd (for a made-up thriller) haunting his every move, is pure comedic bliss. Watching him discover the joys of sock-shopping at Target or assisting the workers at a car wash are wonderful bits of self-mockery, celebrity overindulgence and comic zeal I can’t ever remember Freeman being given the opportunity to digest.

Silberling’s screenplay though contains some beautiful exchanges between the pair that strip down the fantasy of the situation and becomes just two non-labeled people with real conversation to share. Their instructions to name ten things or less they couldn’t live without have the flair of a James L. Brooks or Cameron Crowe and help us relate to them as more than just a gimmick. Paz Vega, who lit up the screen in her American debut (Brooks’ Spanglish), conveys both the spunk and the weariness of someone just trying to get through each day without screaming. Thankfully, Silberling doesn’t fall into the trap of dressing her down, substituting mousiness as the metaphor for breaking through. She’s beautiful, but a real beauty unmanufactured. Vega and Silberling create Scarlet as a whole; a doer not about to cry “poor me” for the cards she’s been dealt or to succumb to some cheap romance to solve all her problems.

This may be Silberling’s look at the way that celebrities and the public support each other. One does their job to provide pleasures to millions while their fans look up to them and try to follow their lead whether it be in fashion or whatever inspiration they find in their work. It’s presentation is lightweight but in a good way. This is no vanity project for Freeman or some excuse to temporarily escape studio tentpoles (where Silberling himself has flourished with Casper and Lemony Snicket.) There’s a genuineness about it from front-to-back, headlined by the authenticity of Freeman and Vega’s performances which carry a breezy, improv-like momentum while never succumbing to making the story all about them. In under 75 minutes, there may be just enough to fill a list of ten things you enjoy about the film, but you will be tempted to go to eleven if it means Paz Vega getting forceful with you.

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originally posted: 10/27/06 02:05:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/18/19 Ronald The wife and I both liked it, which does not happen very often. 4 stars
6/05/10 d.stern A truely conscious, the vanguard of a new possiblity in filmmaking 5 stars
6/01/10 User Name An appealing cast, but the script plays it too safe to be substancial. 3 stars
1/25/09 TreeTiger Whenever a review starts with SCREENED AT THE...FILM FESTIVAL - you know it sucks balls... 2 stars
8/18/08 Valentina N. A candid and funny movie, drowned in a warm, liquid light. I loved the cinematography. 4 stars
7/02/07 W.S. Blevins Boring....painfully boring. 2 stars
5/29/07 Cynthia L Peretti I really like the movie & the music 5 stars
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  01-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 24-Apr-2007



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