Freedomland - Missing Emotional Depth
| Freedomland is the story of how an already strained community is ripped apart when a white mother claims to have had her car stolen by an unidentified black man while her child was sleeping in the back seat. This story, while not a strict retelling of actual events seems to have been inspired by recent similar occurrences.
Freedomland wants to get under the skin of those affected by these events. It wants to explore the motivations of all the parties and come to some sort of understanding. However the film fails to get too far along that road and is held back by a number of factors.
At first I couldn't put my finger on what I thought the failings of Freedomland were but as I thought about it more I realized that despite the nature of the story and its similarity to true stories that we see on the news everyday, the film never created a "real" feeling world.
This was mostly due to the script which doesn't set up the story very well. It jumps to reaction without providing the emotional base to support it first. Freedomland doesn't create intensity, it assumes intensity.
Instead of getting to see why the individual characters are who they are, we are asked to assume that from the start. The film says to us "there is a black community in a ghetto, please assume these preconceived notions about them." "There is a working class white neighbourhood near by, please make the following assumptions." It never shows us who these people are and requires us to bring our own emotional baggage to the picture.
Therefore when the smallest incident occurs, race riots begin. Freedomland fails to create this reality itself instead relying on our preconceptions.
This is evident in one of the earliest scenes. The mother (Julianne Moore) shows up at the hospital after the car jacking. The cop (Samuel L. Jackson) interviewing her knows something is wrong but can't put his finger on it. The film takes a very long time for her to get around to giving him the important detail that her son was in the back seat of the car but as soon as she does the film flips into a hyper kinetic reaction of panic, anger and asthma. The cop begins yelling at her, the camera starts flailing around, instead of dealing with the seriousness of a missing child, the cop is fumbling, angry and confused. The film assumes we have some understanding of the tensions that brings these characters to this place but we are only 10 minutes into the film and have no idea who these people are... except in our our prejudices and assumptions. The film never ends up challenging those assumptions, instead it relies on them.
Freedomland has some strong moments, including a scene with Eddie Falco convincing the killer to confess but in the end, the film fails to strike the necessary emotional depth to tell this story. While not a bad film, it's not a good one either and not really worth paying to see.