FREEHELD – Review by Susan Granger

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Julianne Moore propels this based-on-a-true-court case of a lesbian cop who takes on an entire community to demand equal rights and justice for her domestic partner. Working for the Ocean County Police Department in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, Laurel Hester (Moore) always kept quiet about her private life until she meets smart, eloquent garage mechanic Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) at a volleyball game. Read on…

When the two women decide to commit to one another and renovate a house, Laurel realizes that her longtime squad-car partner, Dane Wells (Michael Shannon), feels betrayed because she’d never trusted him enough to confide in him.

Then, in 2004, Laurel is diagnosed with terminal, stage-four lung cancer. While receiving radiation, she tries to assign her pension to Stacie so she can retain their home. But the prejudiced county commissioners, called Freeholders, use a loophole to refuse to extend benefits to same-sex partners.

Although Laurel’s fellow officers initially fail to come to her defense, empathetic Dane does, becoming her staunch ally, along with a civil rights activist, Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell), a self-described “loud, gay Jew” wearing a purple yarmulke, who turns Laurel’s appeal into a national front-page story involving a miscarriage of justice.

Laurel’s case changed New Jersey law, extending domestic partner benefits to all public employees, whether they’re married or not, paving the way to the subsequent Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage.

Earnestly scripted by Ron Nyswaner (“Philadelphia”), it’s formulaically directed by Peter Sollett (“Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist,” “Raising Victor Vargas”). It’s not only miscast but also lacks that essential spark of excitement. And Steve Carell’s boisterous characterization is so stereotypical that it’s cringe-worthy.

Cynthia Wade’s 2007 Oscar-winning short documentary “Freeheld” was more effective.

FYI: Those who decry age disparity in on-screen romances should not that the difference between Julianne Moore and Ellen Page is a whopping 26 years. And working on this film inspired Ellen Page to come out of the closet about her real-life sexuality in Feb., 1914.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Freeheld” is a familiar 5, more of a tear-jerking TV movie-of-the-week.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.