The Freebie -- Film Review

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A convincing illustration of the way stupid ideas can get traction if discussed at the right moment by people inclined to agree with one another, "The Freebie" takes a sweet if thrill-free marriage and threatens to throw it under a truck for the sake of contemporary sexual ideals. Likable and funny, if mildly so, it stands a chance with art house audiences but doesn't milk its premise enough to draw the attention paid to "Humpday," whose similar lineage and themes have prompted comparisons.

Writer-director Katie Aselton and Dax Shepard play a married couple whose idea of fun leans more toward shared crossword time and mutual foot massage than all-night sex. Both are content with their largely sex-free union. Shepard admits his erotic drive has evolved into "snuggle boners" for his wife, and they're all smiles when we observe their shared daily routine. But the two grow self-conscious about things after a dinner with friends and find themselves discussing taking a one-night break from monogamy.

At this point, Aselton's storytelling fragments, jumping engagingly from pre-"freebie" anticipation to the glum morning after and the predictable logjam of awkward silences and bitterness that follows.

Few viewers will be surprised by the emotional fallout. In fact, these painful scenes are more convincing than the blissful ones that begin the film. But throughout, the believable naturalism of improvised dialogue and the intimacy of the movie's unassuming but skillful style makes the misguided protagonists easy to root for.

Opened: Friday, Sept. 17 (Phase 4)
Production: Freebie
Cast: Dax Shepard, Katie Aselton, Frankie Shaw, Ross Partridge, Sean Nelson, Bellamy Young
Director-screenwriter: Katie Aselton
Producer: Adele Romanski
Executive producers: Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton
Director of photography: Benjamin Kasulke
Production designer: Jessica Anisman, Marguerite Phillips
Music: Julian Wass
Editor: Nat Sanders
Rated R, 77 minutes
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