Movie Review: Freeheld

Freeheld is the true story of a New Jersey policewoman, Laurel Hester, and her domestic partner, Stacie Andree. In 2005, Hester was dying of cancer, and wanted her pension to be left to Andree, so that she could continue living in the house they lived in together; however, the freeholders of the New Jersey city she lived in were the ultimate deciders of this, and initially they denied her request.

Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) has worked for the Ocean City, NJ police department for the past twenty-three years. Being a woman, she has to fight for her promotions - things that male coworkers get handed easily - and so, she keeps the fact that she's gay a secret. She meets Stacie (Ellen Page) at a volleyball game they're both playing in, and they fall in love, even though Stacie is a lot younger than Laurel. One day, Laurel has been having rib pain for a while, and Stacie makes her go see the doctor; it turns out it's cancer, and a late stage one at that. Hester would have had a nice pension coming to her, due to her years of service, and she wants that pension to go to Stacie; however, since they are "domestic partners" and not married (gay marriage was mostly illegal at that point in time), getting it approved is harder than it should be.

Moore and Page were very good in this movie; I wouldn't be surprised if Moore gets an Oscar nomination, because the Academy loves transformation roles (and by the end of the film, she looked radically different than she did at the beginning, due to the cancer). Michael Shannon was also great as Laurel's police partner, who had a bit of a crush on her before he finds out she's gay. Steve Carell plays a gay Jewish man who fights for gay marriage, and he provides some comic relief in a movie that is mostly very serious.

Yes, see this movie, and don't forget to bring the Kleenex. Laurel's fight seems to get more futile as she wastes away from the cancer, and it was ironic that the freeholders (hence the title of the film, Freeheld) said they "carefully considered" their decision; the initial closed-doors scene where they decide to deny Laurel her pension for Stacie to use was basically them saying "but they're not married, they're two women. Denied, let's move on." There's one freeholder who is on the fence but they like to have unanimous decisions, so he's swayed by his peers to say No. Hopefully this film will help spotlight what most of us already know: that love is love, and others shouldn't be denied equality because of the gender of the person that they choose to spend their lives with.

Freeheld is in theaters today, October 16th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 106 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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