Full disclosure: I work as an independent contractor at the Twitter Headquarters in downtown San Francisco, and sometimes various luminaries stop by on their press tours. This week I came to work and found out Oscar-winner Julianne Moore would be visiting with Ellen Page to promote Freeheld—the true story about Laurel Hester whose fight to leave her domestic partner her pension changed the course of the LGBT rights movement. So when Julianne stopped by, I had the great opportunity to ask her something! I am a huge fan, so I beat a path to the microphone and asked Julianne:
I said, “Your acting in Still Alice blew me away, and you were playing a woman who had early onset Alzheimer’s. This time you are playing a woman with stage 4 lung cancer. Are you on the phone with your management saying ‘No more terminal illness.’?”
Julianne laughed and replied, “It was a complete coincidence. I mean honestly, when I was doing Still Alice, Kristen Stewart and I were talking and she said, ‘What are you doing next?’ I said, ‘Well, there’s this movie it’s a true story about these women and the fight for equality and cancer. She said, ‘Oh my God. You’re kidding.’ And at that point we were supposed to do it pretty soon after Still Alice. And because of a scheduling issue (actor) Michael Shannon had, we pushed it to the Fall. Which is very fortunate, so we weren’t doing them back to back. We don’t have control about what comes our way and when. And I wish we did, because we could say ‘now I’ll do a comedy, now I’ll do a drama, now I’ll do this, now I’ll do that.’ Instead it sort of comes toward you willy nilly. I’m still grateful I just had the opportunity to do two such great movies in a row.”
Even though I love Julianne Moore and don’t want to see her die in any more movies, I think this movie is worth seeing to learn about the civil rights battle. I imagine the educational elements of this movie will allow Freeheld to stand the test of time, since this movie will probably be played in high school “gay straight alliance” type clubs and American history classes for years to come (caveat to teachers: there are some mature scenes and language).
Moore plays Laurel Hester, who fought for justice nearly 30 years as a policeman only to have the door slammed in her face when she wants to leave her pension to her lesbian partner Stacie (Ellen Page). After being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Laurel’s time left with Stacie is short and she wants Stacie to be able to keep their house when she passes. Laurel petitions the county legislators which are called the “Board of Chosen Freeholders” in New Jersey, and they callously brush her off. This drama unfolded at an pivotal moment in time when New Jersey (where the women live) had just approved domestic partner benefits for state employees, but as a county employee the benefits didn’t extend to Laurel.
Steve Carrell shows up just in time to give the movie some energy, and I get the feeling he’s been waiting years to play a camp gay man like he does in this movie. Once Hester and Stacie’s plight makes the news, Carrell shows up as Steven Goldstein, a light in the loafers LGBT activist. Goldstein has the foresight to see what an important battle this was for the whole community.
The only contentious points I have with this film is the moral tone is a bit heavy-handed. Also, the setting is 2002-2005 in New Jersey, and the script is written to show Julianne Moore’s Laurel as extremely closeted and terrified of her peers knowing she was gay. Maybe I’m misreading the situation; however, I’m pretty sure that most well-socialized adults living so close to New York City would have the intuition to guess a middle-aged, single, female policeman who lives alone with a large dog and a “special roommate” was a lesbian. She might as well drive a Subaru with a lot of KD Lang bumper stickers and T-shirt that reads “I shot Jennie Schecter” (link). Then again I’ve never been to the rural parts of the Garden State, so maybe that was indeed the case, even though I feel that was exaggerated for dramatic effect in this film.
Can I Take the Kids?: There are some PG-13 lesbian make out scenes and hate speech.
Photo credit: Endgame Entertainment
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