You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Freebie

An agreeable if sketchy look at a couple who give themselves a one-night pass to have sex with other people.

With: Dax Shepard, Katie Aselton, Frankie Shaw, Ross Partridge, Sean Nelson, Bellamy Young.

A high-concept comedy with an ultra-low budget, “The Freebie” is an agreeable if sketchy look at a couple who give themselves a one-night pass to have sex with other people. “Puffy Chair” thesp Katie Aselton gets her feet wet as a writer-director but doesn’t leave the shallow end of the pool with this brightly turned-out do-it-yourselfer that possesses mild charm but will likely go further in alternative home-viewing formats than in theatrical release, which Phase 4 will undertake this summer after its Sundance pickup.

Exec produced by Aselton and hubby Mark Duplass and shot in 11 days in the couple’s Silver Lake district home in Los Angeles, the pic was largely improvised from Aselton’s six-page outline. A couple of around-the-table discussions among friends have a loose, spontaneous feel, but the key one-on-one scenes between the two leads are focused and on-point, short-circuiting the possibility of aimless indulgence.

Annie (Aselton) and Darren (Dax Shepard) are warm and intimate together, sharing feelings and snuggle sessions. But their physicality is distinctly cuddly rather than lustful and they can’t remember the last time they had sex. One of the film’s emotional and psychological limitations is that the characters never delve into the possible reasons for the erosion of the erotic: Do they infantilize each other? Does he have performance issues? Was she not getting much out of it?

Not only does the dialogue detour around the nitty-gritty, it provide no substantial information about the twosome as individuals. They seem like nice young folks and all, but they appear to have plenty of time to kill, and there aren’t even token mentions of what they do for a living, what they’re interested in, their backgrounds or previous relationships, or anything that would give them dimension.

As a result, the film’s focus remains incredibly narrow. More than halfway through the brief running time, Annie and Darren embark upon their evenings apart, she to a local hangout with a very willing bartender, he to an assignation with a girl in the neighborhood. We see the beginnings of the separate dalliances, notably a hot encounter Annie allows to happen in the bar’s bathroom, but don’t know for sure how far they go.

Unsurprisingly, the morning-aftermath is not as insignificant or guilt-and-suspicion-free as the more theoretical advance discussions had been. Some pain, resentment and deeper feelings come through in the final stages, although the film still wants for more incisiveness and a sense of full experience.

From a performance p.o.v., Aselton and Shepard hold the screen well and are most watchable, and Aselton does a fluid directing job within the limited challenge she set for herself production-wise. Benjamin Kasulke’s HD lensing is bright and sharp, while Nat Sanders’ editing is very crisp.

Popular on Variety

The Freebie

Production: A Phase 4 Films release of a Freebie presentation. Produced by Adele Romanski. Executive producers, Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton. Directed, written by Katie Aselton.

Crew: Camera (color), Benjamin Kasulke; editor, Nat Sanders; music, Julian Wass; music supervisor, Margueritte Phillips; production designers, Jessica Anisman, Phillips; sound, Sean O'Malley; re-recording mixer, Gene Park; second unit camera, Jas Shelton. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Next), Jan. 27, 2010. Running time: 78 MIN.

With: With: Dax Shepard, Katie Aselton, Frankie Shaw, Ross Partridge, Sean Nelson, Bellamy Young.

More Film

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content